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Leaders in Service Provide Resources and Comfort to Manhattan’s Homeless Community

5/15/2015

Riverdale, N.Y. – It’s difficult for most people to imagine being homeless and living on the streets of New York City. Basic human needs often go unmet—not just for nourishing food and warm clothing, but also for simple human contact. Life on the streets can make a person feel alone and invisible.

The College of Mount Saint Vincent actively supports a sustained commitment to serving individuals living in poverty—especially those close to home. Through its collaboration with an organization called Midnight Run, the College encourages volunteers to not only serve, but also find common ground with those living on the edge of society.

The Midnight Run was founded by members of a Dobbs Ferry church in the 1980s to distribute food, blankets, and warm clothing to the homeless on street corners, bus stations, and other public areas in New York City. Recognizing that many individuals cannot make their way to needed supplies, organizers and volunteers decided to bring assistance directly to the people—arranging for caravans of volunteers to travel to midtown Manhattan, not only to distribute these necessities, but also to offer something more—compassion.

The Midnight Run is a staple event for Mount Saint Vincent volunteers. Students and others who participate in this traditional and frequent campus-wide outreach join in preparing food and gathering basic supplies for distribution. Beginning their prep in the afternoon, volunteers may also choose to go on the run down to Manhattan late in the evening. Because the homeless often gather in certain areas late at night before finding a place to sleep, it is to these gathering spots that the Midnight Run volunteers go with their deliveries of food, coffee, warm clothing, blankets, and simple toiletries.

According to the organization’s website, “enthusiasm for Midnight Runs has been contagious—the program has grown from the original tiny group to a collaboration of more than 150 community organizations.” Such collaborators, which includes numerous colleges and universities in the region, offer more than 1,000 relief missions per year. Volunteers are not only delivering goods to those living in the streets, but are also visiting individuals in need, sharing kindness and building trust.

This academic year the Mount committed to do 15 Midnight Runs, the last of which was held on Thursday, May 7. Mount volunteers meet in the Campus Ministry office at 8:30 p.m., departing in vans to travel downtown by 9 p.m. These Leaders in Service, as Mount volunteers are known, hand out food and clothing, and engage in conversations with the homeless, arriving back to campus by 1:30 a.m.

The Office of Campus Ministry emphasizes the importance of helping volunteers understand that Midnight Runs are not a quick fix to homelessness. “We are only a drop of water in the solution, and students recognize that we aren’t going to solve hunger in New York City by going on Midnight Runs,” said Kathryn O’Loughlin, Assistant Director of Campus Ministry. “We are helping to initiate a foundation aligned with the mission of the College from which solutions may unfold.”

Matthew Shields, Director of Campus Ministry, agrees with the need to create the right mindset for Mount students, and works at helping them further reflect on the goals of Leaders in Service. “Our students fully embrace the initiative,” says Mr. Shields. “Being a Leader in Service is much more than an outward appearance—it is a deep and total commitment to what we believe is our obligation to help others in need, particularly those who are disenfranchised.”

For more information about the Midnight Run organization, visit www.midnightrun.org.

About Leaders in Service
The Leaders in Service series is part of the College of Mount Saint Vincent’s National Measures of Quality (NMQ) initiative—a reliable, sensible model of assessment demonstrating the exceptional quality and authentic value of a Mount education, both within and beyond the classroom.

About the College of Mount Saint Vincent
Founded in 1847 by the Sisters of Charity, the College of Mount Saint Vincent offers nationally recognized liberal arts education and a select array of professional fields of study on a landmark campus overlooking the Hudson River. Committed to the education of the whole person, and enriched by the unparalleled cultural, educational and career opportunities of New York City, the College equips students with the knowledge, skills and experiences necessary for lives of achievement, professional accomplishment and leadership in the 21st century.