Courtesy Photo Wheeling University first-year students assemble food packets.

WHEELING—Wheeling University first-year students assembled more than 900 food packets for Catholic Charities West Virginia (CCWV) – a project that will benefit local residents this winter. Through the partnership with Catholic Charities Northern Region, about 160 First Year Seminar (FYS) students assisted the agency in preparing the ‘snow meals’ for those who receive home delivered meals from Catholic Charities. Assisting the students were Wheeling University staff and upper-class volunteers. “Our mission at Wheeling University is to equip our graduates with the critical, creative and empathetic tools they need to pursue rewarding careers and enrich their local communities. To do that, students need to have experiences like assisting Catholic Charities’ efforts to help our community members to feed their families. I am grateful the Wheeling University family could assist Catholic Charities and the Wheeling residents who depend on this meal program,” said Ginny R. Favede, president of Wheeling University. The Northern Region of Catholic Charities provides meals to about 185 people Monday through Saturday each week. However, with inclement weather approaching, the agency sometimes cannot deliver meals due to unsafe conditions. On those occasions, each individual receives, in advance, five snow meals, which include non-perishable food items. The meals bridge the gap until deliveries can resume. As part of their FYS experience, the Wheeling students packed the snow meals for Catholic Charities. On site for the meal assembly was Wheeling Alumna Latrisha Whitelatch ’02, who is the assistant coordinator of the Catholic Charities Neighborhood Center in Wheeling. “Usually, our volunteers help us pack the meals at the center. This is the first time we have been able to partner with the University in this way and it is a tremendous blessing. We have the meals prepared ahead of time, and with the students help, we did it in a fraction of the time,” she explained. Twenty tables were set up inside the University’s Troy Theater and students wore masks and gloves and were spaced out to adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols. At each table, students trained each other, gathered and placed a can of soup, a fruit cup, applesauce, ramen and dried fruit into bag. Once all the meal bags were finished, the Wheeling students helped Whitelatch load all of the meals into a van, which were taken back to Catholic Charities where they will be distributed to their clients. “Projects such as this addresses our obligation as a Catholic institution to engage with our community in service learning activities. Granting the restrictions of COVID-19, our outreach through the Appalachian Institute is often curtailed by where we can go, what we can do and who we can invite to participate safely,” said Father Richard McCouch, S.J., director of Wheeling’s Appalachian Institute. “Through this project, we had an opportunity to address a community in need, and to instruct our FYS students about food security in our region.” Wheeling University freshman Joseph Iye undertaking service project “make me more whole (as a person). There are a lot of people out there that are struggling. For all of us to come together as a group to help them, lets them know there are people in the community ready to help them. This small project has helped me see what a big impact we can make in lives of others ” Northern Regional Director for CCWV Mark Phillips, said, “It was a real blessing to Catholic Charities WV to have so many hands to help pack snow meals for the people whom we serve. As the weather turns toward winter, it can be difficult for people to meet their food needs — especially the homebound. We thank Father McCouch and the FYS students for helping us to serve this critical need.”