Students trick-or-treat for cans, not candy

Pushing blue move-in carts and singing Disney songs, an army of costumed students roamed the neighborhoods around the Mount Vernon Campus Saturday night knocking on people’s doors. But it wasn’t candy the students wanted. It was cans.

As part of Trick-or-Treat for Service, which was created last year by junior Jake Stewart, about 100 volunteers collected 11 carts’ worth of food that will be donated to the Capital Area Food Bank.

“I enjoy going trick-or-treating and it’s something that I never want to stop doing. It’s a throwback to my childhood,” said Stewart, a member of community service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega and a former house proctor on the Vern. After going trick-or-treating for candy during freshman year, Stewart said he wanted to do something more.

So last year, he gathered together about 20 volunteers – mainly his fraternity brothers and residents – and sent them out with black trash bags.

“Students got so much more food than we expected and came back to my room with ripped bags spilling with food,” Stewart said. They collected two blue carts’ worth of donations, estimated to contain at least 500 pounds of food.

After a successful first year, Stewart coordinated with Mount Vernon Campus Life, the Neighbors Project, various house proctors and other service organizations to make the event even bigger.

Another major partner was the Capital Area Food Bank, the largest nonprofit hunger and nutrition education resource in D.C. Acceptable donations for the food bank included canned items, cereal and hygiene products like toothpaste and diapers.

“I like the idea of a food collection because I think it adds a unique service dynamic to regular trick-or-treating, where you’re not just trick-or-treating for yourself, you’re trick-or-treating for the community and those who are less fortunate,” said Aly Azhar, a house proctor in West Hall who led a group of his residents for the night.

To reach neighborhoods from Foxhall Road to MacArthur Boulevard, students either walked or rode in donated Zipcar or 4-RIDE vehicles.

Operating out of the Pelham Commons dining area, volunteers were dispatched in small groups to designated routes, maps and reusable bags in hand.

“It was really rewarding to see people excited about giving back and people already having prepackaged bundles for us,” said sophomore Lauren Piccioli, who participated in the event through her community service sorority, Epsilon Sigma Alpha. “And everyone was really friendly. So it was great.”

Next year, Stewart plans to join forces with American University, which is located close to the Vern. Beyond that, he has an even loftier target in mind.

“If we’re talking top goal here: to have Michelle Obama come and bring her daughters,” he said. “You gotta have those huge goals.”

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