As Need Skyrockets, Iona College Provides 140 Families with a Thanksgiving Feast


NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — As more families face food insecurity and financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Iona College’s annual Thanksgiving basket collection provided 140 families with a full holiday feast. United in the spirit of Blessed Edmund Rice, founder of the Congregation of Christian Brothers, the Iona community each year carries forward the mission of service and compassion by collecting food items for those in need during the holidays.

This year, however, the need skyrocketed. During the basket blessing ceremony, Walt Ritz, executive director of HOPE Community Services, shared that his organization used to serve 700 families a month pre-pandemic. Now, they serve 7,000 a month.

“It was a sobering number to hear, but it shows that the meals donated and Iona’s continued service to others matters and makes a difference,” said Benjamin Mead, MTS, assistant director for retreats and spirituality programs in the Office of Mission and Ministry, which organizes the collection each year.

The Thanksgiving basket tradition began in the early 2000s. Over the past five years, Iona has donated over 650 Thanksgiving baskets full of food. This year, the distribution was conducted in partnership with four organizations: HOPE Community Services in New Rochelle; the Boys & Girls Club of New Rochelle; Greyston Foundation Child & Youth Services of Westchester County and Abraham House in the Bronx.

"Working on the Thanksgiving baskets this year was truly the perfect introduction to the Iona community, and more specifically, the Office of Mission and Ministry,” said Annika Ziels, a freshman who hopes to major in Speech Communication Studies. “I feel proud to attend a school that prioritizes service and standing in solidarity with others who are less fortunate this holiday season.”

Mission and Ministry is dedicated to keeping the foundational principles of service, justice and spirituality in the minds and hearts of the College community. The office provides students and the community at large with many opportunities to get involved in service, practice their faith, build relationships and much more.

“The collection of Thanksgiving baskets embodies Iona's compassionate concern for those made poor, a hallmark of our College mission and heritage,” said Carl Procario-Foley, Ph.D., director of Mission and Ministry.

Volunteers stand outside of the Hynes Athletics center for the Thanksgiving Baskets 2020 ceremony.
Two students carry Thanksgiving baskets out of the Hynes Center.
A student waves as he carries a Thanksgiving basket to the van.
A student pushes a cart full of Thanksgiving baskets to the van.

Founded in 1940, Iona College is a master's-granting private, Catholic, coeducational institution of learning in the tradition of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers. Iona's 45-acre campus is just 20 miles north of Midtown Manhattan. With a total enrollment of nearly 4,000 students and an alumni base of over 50,000 around the world, Iona is a diverse community of learners and scholars dedicated to academic excellence and the values of justice, peace and service. Iona is highly accredited, offering undergraduate degrees in liberal arts, science, and business administration, as well as Master of Arts, Master of Science and Master of Business Administration degrees and numerous advanced certificate programs. Iona’s LaPenta School of Business is accredited by AACSB International, a prestigious recognition awarded to just five percent of business schools worldwide. The Princeton Review recognized Iona’s on-campus MBA program as a “Best Business School for 2021.” Iona College also recently launched a new, fully online MBA program for even greater flexibility. In July 2021, Iona College and NewYork-Presbyterian announced the establishment of the NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences, to be principally located on the College’s new campus at 171 White Plains Road, Bronxville, N.Y. Supported by a $20 million gift from NewYork-Presbyterian, the NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences is expected to offer a new vision for collaborative health care education, modern workforce development, and community care.