Gannon gives soup substance

Gannon University hosted Soup with Substance, the keynote event for Hunger and Homelessness Week, Tuesday night in Waldron Campus Center’s Yehl Ballroom.

The event featured speakers from the Washington, D.C., area to give listeners a glimpse of the circumstances that can lead up to a person becoming homeless.

Event coordinators were happy to welcome Cortez McDaniel again this year to address the audience. McDaniel is the transition coordinator of the Father McKenna Center in Washington, D.C.

He was a Division 1 football player at Virginia Tech until he suffered an injury that ended his football career. After his injury, Cortez’s life spiraled out of control. Now, with his life back on track, he helps people who are struggling with addiction and homelessness.

His story inspires people, helping them better understand that there are often more issues and problems surrounding homelessness than most people initially think.

Raising awareness of these issues is key to better serving and helping the homeless community. The recent bitter cold temperatures remind us that the winter months can be especially difficult for the homeless community in Erie.

The other featured speaker, Dennis Dee, is currently homeless and works closely with the Father McKenna Center.

Dee, with his degree from Georgetown University, practiced law, but, like McDaniel, underwent a series of events that led him to homelessness.  Through these men, the Gannon community was reminded to consider people and to be leaders in service and compassion.

Leah Johnson, a sophomore social work major, said the event was very moving and both Cortez and Denis were incredibly open about their experiences with homelessness.

“My favorite thing that Cortez said was, ‘You can’t love people to death. You have to love them to life,’” Johnson said. “I think one of the most important things they shared was that there is a place for everyone to be involved, even if it’s not working directly with the homeless population.”

For those who missed out on Tuesday’s event, Hunger and Homelessness Week continues throughout the rest of this week.  Many student organizations are working on baskets that will be donated to area families in need.

Thursday and Friday during lunch hours, these baskets will be on display in Waldron, where staff and students can vote on their favorite basket by donating spare change.  The money raised from the basket penny wars will fund a dinner at the First Presbyterian Church and the Second Harvest Food Bank.

The culmination of events happens Saturday when the baskets are delivered to the families followed by a time of reflection in the Yehl Ballroom. Hunger and Homelessness Week is an annual event sponsored by The Center for Social Concerns.



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