The Oklahoma Baptist University science and mathematics clubs continued their tradition this year of providing Thanksgiving baskets to local families through the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. The clubs collected about $250, enough to provide 10 baskets that will feed 30-40 people.
"The donations that OBU science students gave this year and in years past are one way that we can give back to the community we live in," said Stephanie Wilburn, a senior biochemistry major from Fitzhugh, Okla., who serves as vice president of OBU's American Chemical Society chapter. "So often I feel like we get stuck on campus, unable to see and help with the needs in Shawnee. Projects such as raising money to help buy Thanksgiving baskets help make OBU students aware of our larger community and feel a part of it."
The project started about seven years ago when Dr. Michael Jordan, assistant professor of chemistry, helped make food baskets at his church, but with a small turnout. He had been part of a church of about 80 members who typically prepared and distributed about 50 baskets to their local community.
"It was heartbreaking to only take baskets to about six people," he said of his first Shawnee project. "And that was all the baskets that went out that year."
In recent years, the clubs have raised as much as $500 for the project. Teaching assistants in labs collect the money, which is given to DHS to purchase food for baskets. In the first few years of their project, the clubs put together the food baskets, but because Firelake grocery provides food to DHS at a reduced rate, Jordan said the direct donations net more food for local families.
Last year, he reported DHS distributed 120 baskets, with the OBU science and mathematics clubs providing funds for 20 of those baskets. He said most of the recipients would not go hungry without the baskets, but the gifts actually bring a traditional Thanksgiving alive for many families.
"It's a big need," Jordan said. "If you think about kids at school - they're hearing how their friends will have turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce, and they will have cornflakes or peanut butter sandwiches. So, essentially, we're giving them this holiday."