POMONA, Calif. - 12/02/2008 -- Several Western University of Health Sciences students spent some of their Thanksgiving week helping to make the holiday happier for others.
Students from the Pomona Homeless Outreach Program (PHOP), Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA) and Undergraduate American Academy of Osteopathy (UAAO) coordinated with the Pomona Valley Christian Ministries to provide Pomona's homeless and low-income community with Thanksgiving meals.
The ministries delivered more than 1,000 meals throughout the community on Thanksgiving Day, and also served about 200 meals at Pomona Valley Christian Center. Students from every WesternU program volunteered and contributed, as did staff and faculty.
“We wanted to do something interprofessional with the whole school, to give everyone a chance to reach out,” said Brittany Gallaher, DO ’11, co-president of PHOP.
WesternU’s financial and volunteer contributions made a big impact, said Herbert Wilkins, Senior Pastor at Pomona Valley Christian Center.
“Because of them we’re increasing the amount of people we’re going to feed this year,” Wilkins said.
Frances Aguilar, PharmD ’10, volunteered early in the week to help prepare for Thanksgiving Day.
“I always like to help out around the holidays,” she said.
WesternU students volunteered in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, and a large group helped prepare, serve and deliver turkeys to families throughout Pomona on Thanksgiving.
The goal of PHOP is to educate students about the realities of what being homeless means, Gallaher said. By volunteering on Thanksgiving, students have to opportunity to talk to the homeless, show genuine interest in them and embrace the osteopathic philosophy, she said.
PHOP also volunteers at the church every other Tuesday to serve dinner. The economy has taken its toll, as they have seen a rise in people coming to these Tuesday dinners, Gallaher said.
“Last year on a good night we were serving 45 people,” she said. “This year, we get at least 55 to 60 and are averaging 70 people.”
They know they won’t cure homelessness, but they have built relationships with people in the homeless community and their support network, Gallaher said. They continue to raise awareness on campus, getting other groups to donate lunches left over from meetings or other activities.
“The school is thinking about the idea of having compassion,” Gallaher said. “It’s not earth shattering, but every little bit helps.”
The reason why they wanted to become doctors was to help people, said Dean Taylor, DO ’11, co-president of PHOP.
“This puts our intent into action and helps us put into perspective why we’re going (to school),” he said.
He does not plan to stop these efforts after graduating.
“Volunteering, giving back, it’s a lifetime commitment, not just this year,” Taylor said.
For more information about PHOP, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.