CHOP: Helping and Connecting With Hamilton’s Community

Cooper Lowell, Staff Writer

The Colgate Hunger Outreach Program (CHOP) seeks to connect Colgate with the broader Madison County community through addressing issues of hunger and poverty. All volunteers work not only to serve the members of our broader community but also to connect with them and get to know the place that we all call home.

There are three branches of CHOP that engage student volunteers two local soup kitchens and the Hamilton Food Cupboard. The two kitchens are the Friendship Inn soup kitchens located in both Hamilton and Morrisville. Lucas Rondan, a senior and one of the leaders of CHOP, explained the experience of working within one of the Friendship Inn soup kitchens.

“Basically, what we did is you go there, you start prepping some of the food if they need any more help finishing up cooking, and then we bring it out to the community. … then we go and sit with them, we talk to them. It’s a lot of elderly people in the community that go to it mostly,” said Rondan.

The pandemic did not stop Rondan from continuing his work in Morrisville in person.

“It was me and one other person, really. It was about once a month … it was important to them because of the elderly community that came and they rely on this food,” he said.

Helping in Hamilton proved to be a challenge that Rondan creatively worked around.

“The best way we pivoted was really trying to get more involvement through doing baking, like for the Hamilton Friendship Inn, we would bake cookies for them and just send them to them instead of doing any in-person service, which was a big help to them. But we were able to continue the Morrisville branch pretty much all the way through last year and even now.”

For junior Caroline Friedman, another CHOP leader, the connection with community members she’s found through CHOP has been among the rewarding parts of her experience with the group.

“There might be somebody playing piano or some kind of music going on,” Friedman shared. “And everyone just gets in line and we serve them. Then they sit together, talk, then they have dessert. And then whenever they’re ready, they can get up and come get to-go containers and leave. But a lot of people will stay for hours just to chat with their friends and if they haven’t seen certain members of the community. It’s a really good way to gather.”

Part of CHOP’s mission beyond just giving food to those in need is to educate and spread awareness about the deeper issues surrounding hunger. To connect the larger Colgate community CHOP has an annual brown bag event held during Hunger Awareness Week, as Rondan explained.

“This year we were able to get the previous mayor of Hamilton to come in and talk about food insecurity within Hamilton and problems that the community is facing,” he said.

CHOP also works closely with the Hamilton Food Cupboard. Senior Riley Ezralow, one of the CHOP leaders who works with the cupboard, said that CHOP volunteers usually restock shelves, organize cupboards and help families who come in to get food.

“I love it,” Ezralow said. “It’s great to help the community. It’s great to have a community outside of just Colgate and to really understand where you’re going to college.”

On the impact of CHOP, Rondan remarked on the meaningful bridge between Colgate and the Madison County communities.

“It’s just a really welcoming space. It’s very friendly, very conversational,” Rondan said. “It’s always a super rewarding experience. It honestly puts a smile on their face and you can’t help but put a smile on your own.”