In August, she ordered food and ingredients to make about 120,000 non-perishable meals for Merrimack College’s annual service event. But with more than 700 volunteers signed up, Urbaez felt they’d finish work well before the two-day event was done.
Acting quickly, she ordered additional food and when Mack Gives Back Days concluded on Saturday, Nov. 11, more than 145,000 meals had been prepared, packaged and delivered.
“It’s nice when there are events like these where you have so many students willing and wanting to participate,” Urbaez said. “We don’t have to advertise too much because we have students who are emailing me saying they want to participate in the event.”
Mack Gives Back was started in 2012 by Fr. Raymond Dlugos, O.S.A., vice president for mission and ministry, as a day of service to commemorate both Veterans Day and St. Augustine’s birthday. Originally, volunteers were sent out to various local nonprofit organizations to help out with whatever was needed. To keep the event alive during the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus shifted to food packaging and distribution.
“I think the awesome part is actually giving away the meals and working with more food pantries than years prior because we just have more food in general,” said Urbaez.
Among the 17 partner organizations this year, Leaving the Streets Ministry of Haverhill received 80 boxes and the Merrimack Valley Food Bank received 100. There are 36 meal bags per box and each meal bag contains six servings.
“What’s cool is that some of the meals we packaged are for Merrimack-led initiatives such as the Food Recovery Network,” explained Urbaez.
As with previous years, volunteers prepared the meals in the Sakowich Campus Center’s Multipurpose Room. Ben Sarantopouls ’25 packed raisin cinnamon oatmeal on the assembly line alongside his club hockey teammates.
“We’re here for an hour to bang out as many meals as we can,” he said near the end of his shift. “We got about 13 boxes done.”
Across the room, Kendra Slater ’27 and her friends were scooping up pasta into bags.
“I’m studying nutrition so food-wise, I like to give back to the community and help out,” she said. “I think (Mack Gives Back) is a great cause.”