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Sister Paula Marie Buley, president of Rivier University, speaks at the school's annual Thanksgiving basket event. Rivier succeeded in putting together 362 Thanksgiving baskets. (COURTESY)

Rivier breaks its own record with Thanksgiving food drive

NASHUA - Rivier University has a place at the dinner tables of many of the area's less fortunate this Thanksgiving. The university's annual basket drive broke a record this year, delivering 362 baskets and 177 turkeys to area agencies.

"There's two purposes," said Mary Jane Silvia, director of Campus Ministry at Rivier, who led the Thanksgiving drive. "To get as much food for the people who want to eat, and to help build the community spirit at Rivier."

Over 250 people representing the gamut of campus organizations, both student and faculty, chipped in to make the event possible. On Tuesday more than 500 participants gathered at Rivier for a prayer service followed by a pre-Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings. "It was nuts, it was crazy; people were eating everywhere," Silvia said.

The baskets were then delivered by student athletes to the vehicles of the receiving agencies, which included Title One, Greater Nashua Mental Health at Community Council, Salvation Army, Harbor Homes, Keystone Hall, Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter, N.H. Catholic Charities, HIV/AIDS Task Force, Nashua Foundation for Oncology/Hematology, Corpus Christi Food Pantry and Anne Marie House.

The goal for the drive, which Silvia said has been going on at least 25 years in some form or other, is to get 175 baskets. Last year 304 came in, and this year the goal was more than doubled.

The university distributes the food through an array of local service agencies, asking them each beforehand how many baskets they are able to distribute. Silvia said every agency went home with more than they had requested.

Sunset Heights Elementary School has contributed big for the last decade, Silvia said. This year they came through with 33 turkies.

Silvia has overseen the effort for the last five years. She said she was concerned that not enough baskets would be delivered. She sent out a blast email, and that's when people started to organize. Student clubs, the nursing faculty, many different constituents of the university got together to put baskets together. She said that's what the school is all about.

"Service is really an integral part of who Rivier is as a university," she said, adding that the Thanksgiving event helps students, faculty and staff to "gather and build our culture of service."

Is she hoping to break the record again next year? Silvia laughs "That's what scares me," she said. "Everybody's going, 'How many are you going to get next year?' I said, 'Oh come on, let's get through this one first.'"

"So you never know, but hopefully we'll just keep getting more and more."

Sister Paula Marie Buley, Rivier's president, echoed Silvia's comments. "This annual Thanksgiving collection brings us together in ways that make us truly a community, a community not only of academic outreach, teaching and learning excellence, but a community that lives what it preaches and truly answers, day to day, what it means to be neighbors."

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Simon Rios may be reached at


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