Mount Carmel Food Pantry, where he saw pantry volunteers
working longer and harder to overcome disorganization.
“I knew about a Management 101 course at Bucknell
where students form a company and work with a select
community partner to improve the organization,” Betz
says. “Our major need was a robust storage system and
efficient distribution for our abundant food supply. Early
in the semester, I actively promoted the project to the
class because they only could choose one project, and they
all had to agree on which it would be. The food pantry won
out over four or five others.”
Management Professor Jamie Hendry’s students examined
all aspects of the pantry, interviewed volunteers, worked the
food lines to identify inefficiencies and sold T-shirts to raise
capital for improvements.
“They were here almost weekly, and they were painstaking
and professional,” Betz says. “They [organized] where all our
food should be so it was efficient and we’d know what we
have. There were bottlenecks that made food-line distri-
bution cumbersome and lengthy. They figured out how to
streamline it and cut distribution time by half an hour. They
came up with ideas about how we could market ourselves.
They left no stone unturned.”
This is where Suzanne Domzalski, Bucknell’s assistant
Catholic campus minister, stepped in with her student vol-
unteers, who make regular trips to the region to lend a hand.
“I knew about the class project, so I asked Jake if there
was any way we could help during our upcoming trip,”
Domzalski says. “Our students went through all the food,
threw out expired things, scrubbed shelves and reorganized
them. It looked amazing. It was almost a miracle.”
Academics and volunteerism don’t have crisp boundaries, but the blur is intended. Diversity has long been on
Bucknell’s agenda, and the coal region partnership adds
an unexpected dimension: That a mere 40 miles away is
a mostly white, rural community in which nearly one in
four people live below the poverty divide is not lost on
Chris Esernio ’ 19 was working the food pantry produce
station for Hendry’s class when a man in his 30s came in,
saw the massive stack of produce and gingerly asked how
much he could have. Esernio told him he could take as much
as he liked.
“Tentatively, maybe a little in disbelief, he asked for a head
of lettuce, which we gave him,” Esernio says. “He stuttered
for a second, looked me in the eyes and said, ‘God bless you.’
It hit us in that moment that what we were doing was right.
In the car ride home, we talked about that interaction and
how humbling and gratifying the project was.”
To Moran, Bucknell students have replaced the energy
base lost when the homegrown 18- to 35-year-olds regularly
leave the region for greener pastures.
“The shakers and movers in Mount Carmel are in their
60s, and we’re missing the young people to get to that next
level,” Moran says. “Now our base is Bucknell students. In
small towns, you have people who want to step up to leadership, but they don’t have the end all to do it. Bucknell has
given us professional development.”
Benjamin Aladejebi ’ 19
(left) and John Morcos ’ 19
help organize the produce
station before low-income
residents arrive at the
Mount Carmel Food Pantry.