At 13, Bridget McDonough ’23 began helping her mom provide meals for Caring for Friends, a non-profit organization with a link to their local church that operates a freezer where people can pick up needed food. Back then, McDonough would write the labels on the packages and place them into the boxes. Soon McDonough was cooking the meals herself—making larger portions of her family’s nightly dinner to provide extra food for Caring for Friends. She expanded her outreach during high school, at Villa Joseph Marie High School in Holland, where she prepared goodie bags and cooked meals at the Caring for Friends facilities in Philadelphia with some of her classmates.
McDonough explains that the food is available to people who are not able to get food items for themselves or people who do not have the ability to make homecooked meals. Parishioners at her church, Assumption BVM in Feasterville, are some of the recipients of the homecooked meals stored in the church’s freezer. But, if needy parishioners are not able to pick up the food, McDonough and her mom often deliver it. Most of the food is delivered to the main Caring for Friends warehouse and distributed within the area.
“Just seeing how grateful people are for something that I can do that’s so little – because it really doesn’t take any extra time out of my day to cook a couple extra meals, package them and take them to church – and to see how grateful they are for something. It’s really nice to see,” she said.
Having been so active in the organization, McDonough would like to see more freezers added to expand access. But more importantly, she would advocate for getting the word out that people don’t need to throw away left over food; they can package the food and donate to a number of freezer locations in the area.
With McDonough’s dedication to helping others imbedded into her DNA, a high school friend suggested that she volunteer for the American Red Cross. It was a perfect fit for the biology major from Trevose, Pennsylvania, who plans to attend medical school to pursue a career as a dermatologist. McDonough applied, trained and passed the clearances and began volunteering for the American Red Cross with her friend. She serves as a donor ambassador where she checks people in for their appointment and after they have given blood, provide snacks to make sure they are okay before they leave. Once again, she expanded her outreach to include her classmates, when she jumped on an opportunity to host a blood drive at Immaculata. With oversight from Immaculata’s Student Health and Wellness Center, McDonough coordinated her first blood drive for her community service project for Immaculata’s chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success, where she serves as treasurer. During this past semester, she co-sponsored a blood drive with IU for the Troops campus club. These two blood drives combined to have 122 donations.
The Red Cross’ website states that every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. So, as busy as McDonough is, she volunteers for about two local community blood drives a month, along with being a member of the women’s soccer team since freshman year and serving as a student ambassador at Immaculata. Because the need for blood is always high, and currently at a critical point, McDonough would like to see locations within the community host multiple blood drives.
“I know many places typically host an annual blood drive, but I would think that if they have the space and the capability, why not have more than one blood drive a year?” she asks. Immaculata held three blood drives this past year.
It is because of this tenacity and dedication to improving the lives of the people within her community that Immaculata recognized McDonough with the Community Service Initiative of the Year award at the recent Student Leadership Awards held at Immaculata. She hopes that by winning the award, other students will be inspired to volunteer.
McDonough has thrived at Immaculata. With her older sister graduating from Immaculata, McDonough was very familiar with the campus. She wanted a college with smaller classes and professors who knew students by name. She found that she really enjoys the community environment fosters by the faculty, staff and students.
“Obviously, you have your close-knit group of friends, but the amount of people that you meet. Even though we are a small school, I meet new people every single day!” she says with a broad smile. However, it’s not the quantity of the people she’s meeting – it’s the quality. “Everyone is so nice, approachable and willing to have an open dialog with you about anything. It makes it enjoyable to be here and attend the activities that we have on campus,” she states.
It’s not surprising to know that McDonough plans to continue, if not even expand, her volunteer work in the future, no matter where life takes her. She emphasizes that many of the things that she does is not very time consuming, and she emphasizes all the positives. “Volunteering can be so rewarding in so many different ways.”