It’s only one hour into the 2023 Mack Gives Back Days and Briana Normandin ’23 is already saying her feet hurt.
As one of the event’s student outreach coordinators, she has been traveling non-stop around campus advertising Merrimack College’s marquee community service event. Each year, students, faculty, staff and other members of the Merrimack community come together to pack non-perishable meals for those in need. Since 2020, Merrimack has partnered with The Outreach Program of Pembroke to distribute the meals.
With the event in full swing, Normandin runs laps around the Sakowich Campus Center’s Multipurpose Room helping out volunteers.
“So far, it’s been crazy,” she said. “I don’t ever stop – it’s literally ‘go, go, go’ the entire day.”
All the hecticness is worth it for Normandin, however. She’s been a student community outreach coordinator with Mack Gives Back since she was a sophomore.
“We help with T-shirt distribution, putting up posters, bringing the food in, loading the vans and getting the boxes out to local food pantries,” she explained. “I’ve worked with The Outreach Program of Pembroke since I was in high school and we helped to package their 1 millionth meal then. I was really excited to find out that Merrimack also works with the organization.”
Her outreach work is helping big time. This year’s event saw over 700 volunteers prepare 145,800 meals benefiting 17 nonprofits.
“It’s gotten bigger every year,” Normandin explained. “When I originally signed up, we were doing 90,000 meals. This year, we were originally going to 120,000, but more and more people started joining”
“I’m looking at two different (career) directions,” she said. “I want to either become a therapist or a board-certified behavior analyst working with people on the Autism spectrum.”
In addition to Mack Gives Back, Normandin also works as a student volunteer at Hands to Help.
“We tutor elementary and middle school students from the Lawrence area,” she explained. “It’s grown a lot over the years. We do semesterly field trips to boost motivation and offer positive reinforcement.”
Hands to Help also works alongside Merrimack’s Food Recovery Program to prepare hot meals for Lawrence residents. The Food Recovery Program received a few meals from Mack Gives Back as well.
“Mack Gives Back is something you see has an immediate difference,” Normandin said. “It’s so hands-on…you see the boxes piled up against the wall, you get to hand it off to the people who collect it to their food pantry. You know you’re making a difference right away.”