It’s no surprise that students in OSU Institute of Technology’s Nursing program feel called to help people.
That feeling goes beyond caring for those who are sick or injured. About half a dozen students recently spent an afternoon and evening preparing and serving a free meal at Open Gate to those in need in the community.
Jodi Campbell, a Nursing instructor at OSUIT, said she first learned of Open Gate’s free meal service last fall, and it was the first time her students volunteered at the organization.
“Food is one of the most basic human needs, and it seemed like a good fit for nursing students to quite literally feed the community,” Campbell said.
Open Gate, which has operated out of the kitchen at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Okmulgee since 2009, provides a free meal on Wednesday evenings from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m. to anyone who shows up hungry.
Dee Hennigan, who coordinates Open Gate, said the program feeds on average 150 people each week.
“Our only mission is to feed people a healthy meal in a friendly and safe environment,” Hennigan said.
Campbell said helping out and serving the community is part of a nurse’s job.
“It’s important for all people to give back but particularly nurses. The American Nurses Association charges us with the ‘protection, promotion and restoration of health and well-being’ of our community. Most of the time we do that in service at healthcare facilities in our communities, but it’s crucial for us and for nursing students who will soon be in professional roles to remember that the health of the community is best served by meeting their fundamental needs of food and shelter so they are less likely to need medical treatment in the first place,” she said.
The students decided to make spaghetti for the meal on March 29. Students and staff from the Nursing program cooked 26 pounds of pasta, 30 pounds of ground beef, and used 24 quarts of sauce to feed the large group who showed up to eat.
Michael Hunter, a third semester Nursing student, said making the meal for Open Gate was more cooking than he usually does.
“I do a lot of ordering of pizza at home,” Hunter joked but said he was excited to volunteer at Open Gate.
“It’s awesome. It’s important for us to give back,” he said. “We’re in Nursing; we’re going to school to help people. Might as well do it this way too.”
Hennigan said Open Gate is supported completely by donations and those who act as host volunteers who prepare and serve meals.
“We also have groups like OSUIT’s Nursing students, and other churches and organizations in the community that will cook the meals and serve them with their own funds,” she said. “Without them, there’s no way we could do this.”
Seeing her students coming together to serve those in need and be part of community programs like Open Gate makes Campbell appreciate their hard work even more.
“I feel very proud of the students in our program who are so willing to give of themselves and their time. We demand an enormous commitment of them— nursing school is hard,” she said. “And even so, they find the time to not only serve in this and other community service activities but to do so graciously and with great spirit and fun.”