Mortar club provides Thanksgiving meals


Mortar Board adviser Kristi Okerland (left) and project coordinator Sierra Shafer (right). Photo by Nicholas Nelson/The Dakota Student.

Many students are looking forward to the upcoming Thanksgiving break and likely the dinner ubiquitous to the holiday.

Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce are all mainstays at many tables. But some in the Grand Forks area cannot afford such luxuries and must go without.

This is where the UND Mortar club steps in.

“The Mortar Board is an honor society for seniors, and our group has about 40 students in it,” Project Coordinator Sierra Shafer said. “Nationwide, there are over 228 chapters.”

The society does several charity events throughout the year, but the Turkey Basket Drive is its largest event.

Families in need will receive a basket that contains all of the fixings for a fine Thanksgiving dinner, including potatoes, stuffing, cranberries and turkey. The drive is in its 35th year and has won a prestigious Project Excellence Award in the past.

“The Turkey Basket Drive is what we do in the fall, it’s our big project,” Shafer said. “We are providing about 1,200 turkey baskets to around 5,000 people.”

To get the baskets to families in need, work must go on behind the scenes. Months of planning have gone into the Turkey Basket Drive, with all of the work culminating on Nov. 21 and 22.

“On Friday Nov. 21, we have U-Haul trucks that go to local grocery stores to pick up the food,” Shafer said. “Then we have people package it all into baskets.”

The distribution date of the baskets is scheduled for Nov. 22, and the event will go from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Families that will receive the turkey baskets must sign up prior to the event through a social worker or church leader.

“Distribution day is the time we are really looking for volunteers,” adviser Kristi Okerlund said.

Anyone interested in volunteering can email [email protected] or call (701) 777-6468.

Volunteering will go from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the UND Transportation Building. The group is also accepting non perishable food items, which can be dropped off in the Student Involvement Office in the Memorial Union.

With each basket costing approximately $50, extensive fundraising methods had to be used to pay the price of feeding over 1,200 families. To help earn funds, group members can sell coupon books, which have proven to be quite popular in the Grand Forks area.

“Each individual raises about $200, and that brings in around $3,600,” Shafer said. “We also get around $8,000 to $10,000 in donations from local businesses.”

The Society

The Mortar Club was founded almost 100 years ago in 1918, and was created to recognize students with outstanding leadership and academic abilities. In 1932, UND’s Quo Vadis Chapter was founded. Ever since it has worked to help students become better leaders and has served hours to better Grand Forks.

“The Mortar Board has definitely allowed me to understand the commitment and teamwork it takes to put on a large volunteer activity,” Shafer said. “It’s a lot of work we put in on top of having classes, work and daily life but it has made me an appreciative person to know that I am able to use my resources to help someone who could really use it.”

Brendan McCabe is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected].