Homecoming campaign raises nearly $20,000 for Tennessee Tech food pantry

COOKEVILLE — While Homecoming is one of many annual events at Tennessee Tech that looked different this year, one thing that remains constant is the giving nature of the Golden Eagle community. 

Students voted to include a fundraiser for Tech’s food pantry as part of this year’s Homecoming activities, and on Nov. 10, student organizations, fraternities, sororities and residence halls competed to see who could raise the most money for the pantry. When the 24-hour campaign ended, the Golden Eagle community had raised $19,763. 

“If students grasp the concept of giving back while they’re in college, they’re much more likely to carry that same mindset once they leave,” said Robert Owens, interim vice president of Student Affairs. “They’ll be more likely to personally give back in the communities where they work. They’ll be more likely to encourage their employers to give back as well.” 

Tech invited alumni and friends to join in the competition. Alumni could make a gift to help their own fraternity, sorority or former hall of residence, or they could make a gift without a designation. While the Kappa Sigma and Phi Mu team raised the most money in 24 hours, the true winners are the students who will not have to worry about affording their next meal. The support of the Golden Eagle community continues to help Tech in its mission to eliminate hidden hunger on campus. 

“Tech has always had a rich tradition of serving others, and I feel like this is something we instill in our students early on,” said Michelle Huddleston, assistant director of Service Learning and Community Engagement. “We want our students to leave here as well-rounded, socially aware and responsible adults. Fostering a sense of civic duty will only benefit them in the long run.” 

Competitions among student organizations have long been a popular feature of homecoming, and the Tech Activities Board met earlier this semester to discuss how to have a successful homecoming during COVID-19. Students wanted to help the food pantry and, in order to maintain social distancing, chose to give through an online campaign. 

“We set an initial goal of $10,000,” said Jerry Keeton, coordinator of Student Activities and Campus Life. “As always, our students exceeded expectations, and we nearly doubled the goal!” 

Students, alumni and campus organizations shared the crowdfunding website on social media, and the site included a leaderboard so organizations could follow the campaign’s progress throughout the day. 

“I didn’t know what to expect, but this was not in the ballpark of what I thought,” said Huddleston. “It’s so much more! I heard congratulations probably 10 times from folks as I walked into work the following morning. It warms my heart so much.”  

Tech’s food pantry is set up like a grocery store so clients can have a regular shopping experience. In 2012, the pantry served five people each week. This grew to 12 each week in 2015. Today, approximately 40 people are served each week, and many are returning visitors. The March 3 tornadoes and COVID-19 stretched the food pantry’s capacity this year, with more students than ever relying on the pantry’s services. 

Huddleston says the funds raised through this campaign will allow the pantry to offer fresher produce and healthier options for students. It will also allow the pantry to remain open through the summer. For more information about Tech’s food pantry, visit https://www.tntech.edu/volunteer/pantry.php.  

“Recognizing and working to meet the needs of other people is selfless,” said Owens. “The more selfless we are as individuals, the better society becomes. When we see this happening at Tech, we’re witnessing some of the best of what humanity has to offer.”  

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