Early Saturday morning (July 11), a van from the University College of the Cayman Islands pulled up to the First Assembly of God church and unloaded 13 storage bins filled with non-perishable food, household products and personal care items.
The plastic grocery bags pulled from the bins by UCCI faculty and staff volunteers wearing yellow T-shirts with the school’s emblem and bearing a “Community Outreach” logo, were stuffed with selected and organized items, all of which had been donated at the campus by faculty and staff members. In turn, the outreach volunteers coordinated with the church to distribute the goods alongside the Cayman Food Bank, which has been using the church as a distribution point twice a week in recent months, since the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown.
The UCCI donations were collected during a drive that began in mid-June. Associate professor Dr. Stephanie Fullerton-Cooper and assistant professor Dr. Kadeshah Swearing headed up the effort. It is the first project in what is expected to be an ongoing campaign to provide direct support to the community UCCI serves. It was spurred by the needs of families impacted by job reductions and job losses resulting from the economic shutdown.
During an online meeting of faculty members in early June, assistant professor Jonathan Bratt pitched the idea of taking a more active role in supporting the community. An email invite for those interested in helping went out shortly afterwards and things quickly snowballed.
The “immediate enthusiasm,” Fullerton-Cooper said, was inspiring and she said the Community Outreach Committee quickly decided that a food drive would be a good idea.
“It was a faculty initiative, but members of the administration and staff have come on board,” she said, noting that 31 people have volunteered to be committee members of what is expected to be an ongoing programme.
On Saturday, 24 volunteers with the group helped deliver and distribute items to 34 families in need of support. UCCI President and CEO Dr. Stacy McAfee and Vice President and Provost Dr. J.D. Mosely-Matchett were among the volunteers.
It is believed this is the first time that UCCI has engaged in direct community support to this degree.
The plan is to keep the effort going with a different event each month. Some of the things being considered are beach cleanups, reading stories to primary school children, painting the homes of low-income elderly residents and offering counseling and mentoring programmes.
The philosophy of the effort is born out by a scripture verse printed on the back of the Community Outreach T-shirts.