The Western Community Outreach club is feeding those in need during the quarterly Be Our Guest event on Dec. 8. A gesture such as this may be familiar to most through the classic Disney movie “Beauty and the Beast,” and helping the less fortunate is a tale as old as time.
The event held in the Viking Commons uses guest meals donated by students to feed the homeless and has been put on by the club for years, junior co-president Hannah Svendsen said.
“I’m guessing the first idea was students sitting around and realizing how many meals go to waste on a student’s meal plan every quarter.” Svendsen said. “They wanted to do something to give that food to people who need it.”
The club coordinates with the Whatcom Transit Association to get free bus passes. Club members and other volunteers give out the passes downtown on the day of the event so people can have an easy and safe commute to campus, Svendsen said.
The guests line up outside the commons until the event begins at 5 p.m. As students come to the commons for their normal dinner, members of the club ask if anyone has any extra meals to donate. If students choose to donate a meal, they are paired with a community member and the two will go inside and share a meal together, Svendsen said.
Junior Grace Parziale has been a part of the club since the first week of her freshman year. She is the co-president, alongside Svendsen. She has taken part in Be Our Guest in the past.
“There’s always extra meals at the end of the quarter. Everyone always has extra guest meals. There are people who are freezing outside, who are just hungry, and would like to use them,” Parziale said. “People will very often give five meals to guest people in. It’s like, ‘Why not?’
Junior club members Mason Pratz and Brooke Flores are fairly new to the club, but that doesn’t discourage them from helping their community members. Both members plan to participate in Be Our Guest this December.
Flores participated in her first Be Our Guest event last spring when she joined the club.
“The line was so long before it even started,” Flores said. “It’s super cool Western has built a relationship with the community members.”
Pratz said the club has taught him to think about people in need, even though it is easier not to.
“You try to not think about it. I think that’s just part of human nature. You try not to think about negative things, but this club has made me realize we do need to think about it,” Pratz said. “These are people out there suffering and it’s important. We, as a community, need to help these people as much as we can. It feels good to be a part of this club.”
The club is having a mini-distribution on Dec. 3, the Sunday before the event, where they will be passing out a minimal amount of supplies and fliers letting people the know the date and circumstances for the Be Our Guest event, Svendsen said.
“We want the community to know Be Our Guest is that Friday. It is completely free, we will bus them there and back,” Svendsen said. “Sometimes that’s the hardest part about Be Our Guest: getting the community to understand that, yeah, there’s no strings attached. We will give you bus passes to come up and we will give you food.”
The club hosts many bake sales and other fundraisers to raise money and help those in need. A clothing drive is in the works and the next club meeting will be held Monday, Dec. 4 in Bond Hall 112.
“People just want love and people just want to feel a connection with somebody. They want someone to hear their story like we all do, but when you’re living out in the streets a lot of people just try to avoid you. We’re here to make people feel a little bit more loved,” Parziale said.