James Mackey, Niagara University
James Mackey, a third-year student at Niagara University, has a longstanding passion for serving those less fortunate. James has been volunteering his time to help others since 7th grade, starting at a soup kitchen in Atlantic City. When he came to Niagara University, he wanted to continue to help others, so he began volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul Society’s soup kitchen, and eventually became the soup kitchen coordinator. As the coordinator, James handles everything from scheduling student teams to planning, shopping for and cooking the meals for the semester. James is also instrumental in obtaining funding for St. Vincent de Paul, as he organizes members to operate concession stands at Niagara University men’s basketball home games, which is the project’s primary source of funding. James’ passion for helping others is illustrated through his efforts to develop relationships with those that he serves. He believes that it is not enough to just feed those in need; he’s also sure to be friendly and start conversations with them. James is a shoulder to lean on, a 20-year-old confidant. James takes great pride in his service and leadership role, and the Niagara Falls community benefits greatly from his Vincentian spirit.
-James Maher, President
Volunteering at the soup kitchen has been one of the highlights of my college years. Volunteering has allowed me to grow in gratitude, patience and charity toward all. The soup kitchen goes beyond hunger; it tries to encompass all the needs – physical, mental and spiritual – of those who come in. We have been trying to adapt the service at the soup kitchen to the different societal issues which have arisen, such as nutrition and companionship. We have increased the number of weekly volunteers by scheduling them around their time and growing demand to volunteer. The volunteers are always personally thanked. At the same time, we make sure to explain the different needs of our guests, which has encouraged them to look at those we serve in a more positive light and diminish any original stereotypes of those in poverty, which we hope will stay with them. We have encouraged volunteers to have meaningful conversations with those we serve, while preparing healthy meals and sides to help improve their overall health. I hope to continue assisting at soup kitchens in some capacity once I graduate, while taking the lessons I have learned volunteering with me to my career in food and beverage management.