UND Mortar Board delivers nearly 1,300 holiday meals to Grand Forks area family during annual basket drive

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UND Mortar Board delivers nearly 1,300 holiday meals to Grand Forks area family during annual basket drive

This past weekend (Nov. 21-22) one group of UND students was making big difference — one turkey at a time.

The University of North Dakota Quo Vadis Chapter of Mortar Board, a national senior honor society, played host to its 36th annual Turkey Basket Drive, providing a Thanksgiving meal to local families in need.

Mortar Board members distributed food baskets to the nearly 1,300 families from the Grand Forks area. With an average family size of four, nearly 5,000 people will be fed on Thanksgiving thanks to turkey baskets, which include canned vegetables, canned cranberries, stuffing mix, canned pie filling, frozen pie crust, a bag of fresh potatoes and, of course, a turkey.

“I hope this weekend we can provide a vehicle for families to come together,” said UND Mortar Board President Taylor Bruer. “Yes, we are giving them food for the holidays, but it goes beyond that. We are providing them with a meal that is meant to be shared among individuals who deeply care for one another.”

The event is funded through Mortar Board’s fundraising efforts. According to Mortar Board Advisor Kristi Okerlund, this year’s group has raised the most money in the shortest amount of time since she became involved with the group in 2003.

“We began our planning process for the Turkey Basket Drive before classes had even officially started (this semester),” Bruer said. “All of our members are highly involved this year. They have generated numerous new fundraising ideas that have paid off tremendously. With strong leadership and motivated individuals, it comes as no surprise that Mortar Board has thrived this semester.“

Although the Turkey Basket Drive has been serving members of the community since 1979, Okerlund says each year’s group brings something different to the event.

“As Mortar Board is a senior national honor society, at least 85 to 90 percent of the membership completely changes hands each year,” Okerlund said. “(So), the students running the Turkey Basket Drive have never done it before. They meet with me to learn the history, and then each chapter makes their own game plan as to how they will raise the funds and execute the event.

"Mortar Board is unique as an honor society as it’s not simply a resume builder — these students are putting in extremely long hours every week in order to successfully execute the Turkey Basket Drive.”

While the organization’s membership changes every year, Bruer says Mortar Board’s core philosophy has stayed the same.

“Many other organizations that I have been involved in center around the idea of ‘what can I gain from being a part of this?’” Bruer said. “Mortar Board centers around the idea of ‘what can I give to this organization?’”

Bruer says another thing that’s been a constant for UND Mortar Board is community involvement. While the organization spends a lot of time giving back to the Grand Forks community, they also rely on community sponsorships and support of their fundraising efforts in order to make the Turkey Basket Drive a reality.

“We have established strong ties to the community and its members,” Bruer said. “Many people are more generous during the holiday season, reflecting on all that they have and what others do not. Many families find it rewarding to ‘sponsor’ a family like theirs. For a family of five, a donation of $25 seems like a small price to pay in order to sponsor a meal and conversation around the table.

“The Turkey Basket Drive is a small way to make a big impact,” he said.

Carrie SandstromUniversity & Public Affairs student writer

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