Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Athletics Department adds Diversity Award to display case

The UW Oshkosh athletics department received the NCAA Division III Diversity Spotlight Initiative Award in November for its continued work with Feeding America and other local food pantries.

This award was started in August of 2014 and it recognizes and promotes outstanding diversity development projects, programming and initiatives occurring on DIII campuses and in conference offices.

For the past four years, UWO has worked with the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, Feeding America. The University has hosted two mobile food pantries per year, at Easter and in late December since 2013. Leftover food goes directly to other food pantries in Oshkosh.

In November 2012, several UWO coaches, led by head football coach Pat Cerroni, volunteered at St. Vincent De Paul in Oshkosh.
“We got asked to go and we volunteered,” Cerroni said. “We went over there to help and saw what it was about and just began to ask questions. I thought it was something they did once a week or once a month.”

Cerroni said he found out they only have the food drives when somebody donates money and then asked how much they raised at that time.
“It was $500 and there was a lot of food there,” Cerroni said. “Then I asked what would $1,000 do, and they said it would be huge.”
He asked the food pantry if they were going to have another food drive before Christmas and they said no because they didn’t have any more money. That’s when Cerroni decided to give them $1000.

After realizing how serious of an issue this was, the football team fundraised $1,500 later that year and created their own mobile food pantry.

“We started it and now it’s turned into something a lot bigger,” Cerroni said. “There’s a lot of really good people in this community that help and it’s now grown into a $10,000 deal.”

UWO Athletics Director Darryl Sims said the University was on board with everything after the football team ran their own mobile food pantry.

“It’s always during the holidays and it’s always cold outside,” Sims said. “So there was an opportunity to bring it on campus. The time frame worked, we’re right on the bus line for people that don’t have cars so it really worked out well.”

It didn’t take long for the athletics department to push the food drive twice a year because Sims said there’s always a need for feeding the hungry.

“It’s clear that anything we can do to help was a positive thing,” Sims said. “It has grown and a lot of the other sports have got on board and we have some community people that have got on board, different corporations have provided resources and have helped buy the food that we give out so it is a very positive thing.”

After the football team started the initiative, Sims said all other sports joined because they knew the importance and difference having a mobile food pantry on campus can make.

“The other programs just kind of got on board because we’re right here,” Sims said. “We have great support from people on campus, alumni, faculty, students, student athletes and community members. People really come out and help out with this effort. It’s just one of those times of the year where you want to give to those less fortunate.”

Sims said when he took the job, he told his staff they needed to do things outside the realm of the athletics department and give back to the community. Even if it’s only for a couple of hours or so, the help can go a long way.

“Coaches got it, student athletes got it, people on campus, they get it and people in the community, they get it,” Sims said. “They want to help. Because they know, unfortunately there is a need. If you give us two hours, it really turns out to be an eight-hour kind of an effort because of the little stuff you end up doing.”

Sim said having coaches and student athletes helping out in the city really gives people a sense of who they really are ,and that is important.

“The community members love seeing the coaches and love seeing the student athletes out and about and it gives them an opportunity to talk with them,” Sims said. “So it’s been really positive.”

Feeding America is the platform the athletics department uses to donate food. Feeding America came about through the University’s relationship with Be the Match, which is another way for UWO to be involved with the community while giving back to those less fortunate.

“We buy food that’s provided by Feeding America and we give that out to the people that come,” Sims said. “Whatever is left gets divided amongst the food pantries here in town.”

Many local organizations have come on board with the food drives. Recently, the Oshkosh Mid-Morning Kiwanis Club donated $5,000 which will create an estimated record $10,000 event with two semitrailer trucks and 50,000 pounds of food.

There are a lot of UWO students who are active in the Kiwanis Clubs with Circle K. Kiwanis Club Foundation Board member Mike Crowe said Cerroni came and spoke to the club about Feeding America.

“He’s quite passionate about the benefits for our community and that’s what we’re all about,” Crowe said. “We like to support locally and do what we can and it’s a good program.”

The Foundation Board then met and reviewed their grants and Crowe said the grant they gave the UWO Athletics Department is a one-time grant that will create the largest food pantry in the Fox Cities.

“It was a really good program from our perspective,” Crowe said. “It helps families in need in our community.”

Sims said the Athletic Department thanks the Kiwanis Club for wanting to be involved because every penny counts.

“Every little bit helps and it goes a long way,” Sims said. “When they reached out and said we want to donate these dollars to this effort, it was very positive and very well received and we still thank them to this day for making that effort.”

The whole process is a yearlong effort in bringing in donations. Sims said they’re always talking to people about donating money to this cause.

“Once we have the money, the food pieces are really easy,” Sims said. “Feeding America has their resources and the folks they deal with to get the food. The question is, how much? It’s obviously predicated on how much we bring to the table.”

On Dec. 22, the local food pantries in town will bring their trucks to the Kolf Sports Center and whatever is left from Feeding America is divided amongst those organizations. The athletic department will then help them load their trucks and they’re on their way.

Cerroni said moving the food drive on campus has really helped out because the people in need can stand inside and be out of the cold.

“It’s one heck of a sight,” Cerroni said. “The line literally begins at eight in the morning for a four o’clock start.”

Sims said the award from the NCAA shows the University cares and they value the community and what makes up the community.

“When there’s an opportunity to help, we certainly want to do that,” Sims said. “It has grown and we would love for the day where we don’t have to do this kind of thing, but as long as people are in need, we can make it work and we’ll do it.”

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