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Holly Jolly Fundraiser fights hunger

Amidst the festive holiday music and seasonal cheer, Columbia  students and staff joined forces with food donors, local celebrities and the Greater Chicago Food Depository in fun new ways to demonstrate the importance of giving back.

Every year the Holly Jolly Food Drive, run by the students of Columbia College Chicago’s underground radio station WCRX 88.1 FM, collects food and money for the Greater Chicago Food Depository to help those in need during the holiday season.

Since the event began in 2002, Columbia students have raised over $46,000 and 3 tons of non-perishable food for the depository with the help of faculty, as well as celebrity guest appearances broadcasted live on WCRX.
This year to celebrate the spirit of giving, students and food donors were met with a spinning wheel of prizes, a silent auction, Santa and his reindeer, and performances by recently discovered Chicago artists like Matt LeGrand and Carlito. On top of it all, there were doughnuts provided courtesy of Stan’s Donuts & Coffee.
Columbia student and WCRX FM radio personality Steve Traficanti, who was volunteering his time at the food drive as Santa, said the fundraiser was “a real win for everybody.”
Rather than follow in the footsteps of those leading the Holly Jolly Campaign in previous years, Matt Cunningham, the faculty advisor for WCRX, said students focused most of their efforts on a virtual food drive.
This online portal, available on the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s website, allows donors who don’t attend the event to give from home by selecting food items and purchasing them through the depository.
The goal for this year was $500 worth of meals for the hungry, Cunningham said.
Jess Lynk, a public relations specialist for the Greater Chicago Food Depository said it plans on having pantries set up on the campuses of all seven colleges in the city to address hunger in higher education by 2020. WTTW recently reported that there are several Chicago pantries where students can go twice week or more to receive necessary food items. “If you’re trying to better yourself, you should have access to nutritious food,” Lynk said.
The depository is also committed to helping those who are unemployed and underemployed, but may not be pursuing a college education.
Through a free 14-week job service training program called Chicago’s Community Kitchens, adults taking the course are able to learn through intensive hands-on cooking and internship experiences, building their resumes and preparing for a food service career.
Lynk said the program teaches its students “the knife skills, but also the life skills” and that 90 percent of people who complete the course are offered jobs in the culinary field.
On his 16th year attending Columbia’s Holly Jolly Fundraiser, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White told students listening over the radio and attending the event why he helps out those in need of food every Christmas, and throughout the year.
“I was a public aid recipient as a kid,” White said. “So we had trouble getting the necessary food stuff, for Christmas, for Thanksgiving, for special occasions, and I committed myself to, when I was a member of our General Assembly, to introduce a bill… that said if you are a company, and you produce food, and the cans are mislabeled, you can donate those canned goods to organizations like the Greater Chicago Food Depository.”
The bill, which was passed in 1981, is called the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. It ensures that businesses and organizations can donate leftover or unwanted food inspected by a state or federal authority without fear of legal repercussions.
Since the act was implemented on a national level, Table to Table estimates that just 15 percent of the food thrown away daily in the U.S. could feed over 25 million people, if only people took advantage of the chance to donate.
White said he wants people to be aware of their good fortune and privilege, and use the resources they have to help others.
“I’m at the right place, at the right time, for the right reason — to make a difference in the lives of those in need,” White told students. “Once you become successful, you give back… every day you must do something good for someone.”

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