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Leslie Capo

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Students at LSU Health New Orleans School of Graduate Studies begin their postgraduate education by serving others. Every year, Graduate Studies faculty organize an outreach effort during the orientation of the first-year students. The Food and Toiletries Drive collects non-perishable food, toiletries and clothing for the homeless and those in need who receive services at the Rebuild Center at St. Joseph Church next door to the LSU Health New Orleans main campus.
For the 2016 drive, the first-year students decorated the collection boxes and distributed them around campus. They were responsible for checking them regularly and transferring the items to storage to make room for more donations. They sorted and packed up the donations and delivered them to the Rebuild Center.
sorting donations
“Not only were the students giving to others, but they also enjoyed getting to know each other better,” says this year’s faculty organizer Dr. Sonia Gasparini, Associate Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy and Neuroscience at the Neuroscience Center of Excellence. “Dr. Kathleen McDonough, Leigh Smith-Vaniz and Dr. Fern Tsien provided assistance.”

The Rebuild Center at St. Joseph Church provides lunch, showers, restroom facilities, haircuts, mail, phone room, computer access, financial assistance, legal aid, and assistance with IDs and birth certificates. It distributes emergency groceries and food bank items to neighborhood families in need. It is a place where the homeless and those in need can rest by day as they get the services they require with dignity and respect.

delivering donations
The 2016 drive was an overwhelming success. Thanks to the generosity of LSU Health New Orleans faculty, staff and students, the School of Graduate Studies was able to donate 130 cans of food, 120 bags and boxes of dry food, miscellaneous items like peanut butter, water, fruit packs and baby food, along with 100 snack items, including granola bars and trail mix. Toiletries donations included razors, bars of soap, shampoo, feminine hygiene products, toothbrushes, toothpaste, lotion, deodorant and 270 single use toiletries (shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash, dental floss, lotion, soap, etc.) Donated clothing included socks, pants and underwear.
“It is exciting to be a part of the LSUHSC community, which encourages our students and trainees to reach out and help the New Orleans community,” notes Dr. Fern Tsien, Associate Professor of Genetics.

“They were very excited to receive these items, which stock the pantry at the Rebuild Center,” says Dr. Gasparini.

The Rebuild Center’s Kenitha Grooms-Williams wrote, “Words cannot express our deepest appreciation for the many ways the entire LSU system continues to help us fulfill our mission to serve those in need.”

delivering donations
The Food and Toiletries Drive became an annual tradition of the School of Graduate Studies in 2013.

“This activity is only one of many in which LSUHSC students, faculty, and staff participate to help us fulfill our mission of providing education and public service through community outreach,” concludes Dr. Tsien.