On April 6, students and representatives from Medaille College gathered at Big Big Table to present a $1,500 donation to benefit Buffalo’s first nonprofit, pay-as-you can café. The donation comes after students from Medaille’s Say Yes to Education program led a campus-wide bottle and can drive for two months to benefit the cause of addressing food insecurity within the Buffalo community. With nearly 9,000 bottles collected, along with two matching gifts of $500 apiece, a total of $1,500 will be donated to Big Big Table.
“This extremely generous gift from Medaille allows us to make important upgrades to our kitchen and helps us supplement our pantry — both of which allow us to continue our mission and serve our neighbors in a deeply meaningful way,” says Big Big Table Community & Operations Manager Heather McCarthy.
Present to receive the check, along with McCarthy, were Big Big Table Co-Founders Mandy Bailey and Trueman Muhrer-Irwin, as well as members of Big Big Table’s Board of Directors.
The bottle drive, initiated by Say Yes Medaille, was only one part of a semester filled with community service initiatives. In addition to the campus-wide fundraising efforts, Say Yes Medaille students and Medaille staff members have spent time volunteering at Big Big Table over the course of the spring semester. Along with the check presentation on April 6, Say Yes Medaille students Bella Maldonado, Minelys Manzano, Nasair Merced-Bentley, Arianna Morales, Nicolette Reczek, Korina Rosario, Reggie Seals and Alana Torres spent the day volunteering at the café, which relies on significant volunteer efforts for day-to-day operations.
“One of our goals with ongoing serving learning projects like these is to ignite a feeling of community on and off campus,” says Medaille College Dean of Student Support Services Michelle Sawyers. “Part of Medaille’s mission is to develop empowered, civic-minded individuals who feel like they can, in turn, empower others. Many of our Say Yes students come from Buffalo’s West Side neighborhood, so supporting Big Big Table helps them give back to their community at large.”
Like many other volunteer efforts, it takes a village. Say Yes Medaille partnered with an MBA alumnus of the College, Dr. Clement Kwakye ’13, who is the owner and director of CK Bottles 4 Bucks, which provides bottle pickup and deposit redemption services, and strives to encourage people of all ages to recycle and play a role in making the planet sustainable and environmentally safe. Dr. Kwakye contributed to the fundraising efforts by providing 6 cents per bottle returned, instead of the standard 5 cents apiece.
College leadership also enthusiastically supported the cause. The two matching gifts of $500 came from Medaille President Dr. Kenneth M. Macur and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Carmen R. Wilson.
Say Yes Medaille not only assists in guiding students through the college experience, from start to finish, but the program also prioritizes preparing these young adults to contribute to society in impactful ways. Some past initiatives have included a distinguished speaker series, focused on resilience and community, and a voter registration drive in collaboration with Open Buffalo. A learning-community-focused summer program is also in the works.
Big Big Table is Buffalo’s first nonprofit, pay-as-you can lunchtime restaurant. Its mission is to provide a dignified response to hunger in the Buffalo community, providing guests with accessible and affordable nutritious meals, regardless of ability to pay. With pay-as-you-can pricing and a significant volunteer component in day-to-day operations, everyone is given a chance to earn what they need by giving what they can. Big Big Table’s motto is: Everybody eats. Everybody gives. Everybody matters.