Fairfield University helps community during coronavirus
FAIRFIELD — Fairfield University’s officials say they have been staying true to its Jesuit mission, with faculty, staff and students continuing to provide assistance to those in need during unprecedented times.
So when the Connecticut Food Bank recently reached out for a monetary donation, Director of Alumni Relations Janet Canepa spoke with Assistant Vice President Jim Fitzpatrick and Fairfield’s General Manager of Dining Services, Duane Gornicki, to see what could be done.
Gornicki oversees the university's emergency food supply, a stockpile of three days worth of food for the 3,000 students that typically live on campus. The stockpile needs to be continuously rotated.
The university described what happened next:
“When the semester came to an abrupt halt, I had no place to utilize it,” Gornicki said. “We have a lot of expirations that were coming up in May, June, July and we were going to lose the food. This was an opportunity to help.”
The university said food insecurity has significantly escalated as the public health crisis hits Connecticut hard; food banks around the state are trying to keep up with an increase in demand from clients old and new. When Gornicki offered to donate the emergency supply, he was immediately directed to contact a volunteer coordinator at Columbus House in New Haven.
“It’s a significant amount of food,” Gornicki said of the donation. “She was so moved, she just broke down and cried.”
Fairfield University has $60,000 worth of food items now donated to nine Columbus House facilities located throughout New Haven County, officials said.
According to Susan Cipollaro, Fairfield University’s associate director of media relations and content marketing, the school prides itself on its commitment to serving the community.
“During this extraordinary time, Fairfield’s faculty, staff and students continue to do our part in serving those in need, and those on the front lines,” she said.
In addition to sending food to the Columbus House, Cipollaro said Fairfield University has continued its long-standing tradition of sending food to Prospect House in Bridgeport.
Cipollaro said the university has also been donating sandwiches to the COVID-19 wings of Bridgeport and St. Vincent’s hospitals all April. Claudio Santos, an employee at Fairfield who had been making and delivering the sandwiches, said the university delivers 50 every Tuesday to Bridgeport hospital and 75 every Friday to St. Vincent’s.
Cipollaro also said they are partnering with Enterprise Rental to use the university’s parking lots as overflow for the high-volume of rental returns they are experiencing.
In addition to students, alumni and faculty from the university’s Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies who are serving on the front lines of the crisis, Cippolaro said the university has donated medical supplies and gear to places that need it.
“Our Egan School of Nursing has sent thermometers to Jewish Senior Services,” Cippolaro said. “Our biology and chemistry departments donated lab supplies including gloves, N95 respirators and masks and hand sanitizer to Bridgeport Hospital and New Yord Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center.”
Cippolaro also said the university’s Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality has been offering one-on-one spiritual direction and a weekly Ignatian virtual retreat.
“The Murphy Center is also responding to helping those serving on the front lines with training to address the emotional and spiritual effects of trauma, and will also offer this resource to the campus community and for students struggling with post traumatic issues in light of the pandemic,” Cipollaro said. “The training is scheduled to begin in early May and will include Bridgeport Hospital.”
The university has been contacted by the state about the use of its field house and alumni hall as hospital overflow spaces if needed, Cippolaro said.
“Fairfield is continuing to reach out and respond to community needs as they arise during this global pandemic,” she said.