by Nichole Hall
Sixteen Hotel & Restaurant Management students from Montgomery County Community College recently prepared and served dinner at Manna on Main Street (MANNA) to the homeless, as part of a class service learning project. The project was also part of MCCC’s 50 Acts of Kindness, in celebration of the College’s 50th anniversary.
Located in Lansdale, MANNA is a community outreach organization whose mission is to end hunger in the North Penn region by providing soup kitchens, food pantries, and education programs to its residents.
All 16 students in Instructor James Lynch’s Fundamentals of Special Event Management course were involved in the project; half of the class prepared the food, while the other half served it at MANNA the following day. In the course, Lynch teaches students the set-up protocol for special events in the hospitality industry, as well as the necessary tasks that need to be fulfilled at corporations and conventions.
Upon arriving at MANNA, Operations Manager Scott Lukens prepped the students for service. The students were then assigned to different stations: serving food to the families, working in the kitchen to deliver food, or cleaning the dishes. Listed on the menu for dinner was turkey breast, steamed broccoli, roasted herbed potatoes, artisan rolls, and garden salads. Chocolate mousse was served for dessert, and residents drank fruit punch, ice-tea, milk, and ice water, with milk being the most popular choice.
As a student service learning project, the purpose of serving dinner at MANNA was to connect what students learned in the classroom to a real-world experience.
“Projects such as this not only increase a student’s knowledge, but also reinforce our College’s commitment to service and the power of volunteerism,” said Lynch. “These are the key building blocks in creating and growing a supportive and productive community. The Hospitality Industry is uniquely positioned to do projects like this. Success in our business is based upon the fundamentals of superior, consistent service—whether in a restaurant, hotel, or in the community.”
One student, Tom Heller, 21, was no stranger to being a server at the event. The second-year student had previously been a server at Olive Garden and Rendazzo’s Pizzeria. Heller enjoyed the event and shared his learning experience at MANNA.
“I’ve pretty much just learned that there’s a lot of people in the community and around us that are homeless,” he said. “We learned how [homelessness] was occurring. It’s a rough experience just seeing that and also going back to your house and talking to your family about [it], and also how they’ll react to it,” he said, describing the experience as “heartfelt.”
“It all got to us because once Scott [Lukens] announced that we were students from MCCC, and were making all this dinner and stuff, everyone was clapping and really appreciated the meal that we made for them,” Heller continued.
Lynch stressed the importance of preparing students to be good citizens, as well as successful professionals.
“By having our students actively involved in local hunger-relief activities, we hope that hands-on experiences, like MANNA, gives our students the opportunity to witness first-hand how powerful a gesture of kindness can be in the lives of those less fortunate. We strive to make our students not only successful professionals, but good citizens of their community as well.”
The students’ project at MANNA on Main Street is one of 50 Acts of Kindness as part of the College’s 50th anniversary celebration. Throughout 2014, MCCC students, faculty, staff, alumni and supporters are committed organizing 50 acts of community service – one for every year of the College’s existence. To learn more about the College’s 50th anniversary activities, visit mc3.edu/50.