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CCU Atheneum: Nicole Slatky, Jordan Smith and Robin Russell show an example of a basket that could be donated for a family in need.
Nicole Slatky, Jordan Smith and Robin Russell show an example of a basket that could be donated for a family in need.

Senior project turns into new CCU Community outreach

by Russell Alston
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Nicole Slatky, a 21-year-old communication major, adopted her first family for Thanksgiving as a student at South Plainfield High School, in her home state of New Jersey. When she went to deliver the basket containing a traditional Thanksgiving meal to her family, the mother was “on the verge of tears.”

“I told her we had five more baskets in the car,” she says. “Hearing that, she completely broke down. It’s nice to know things like that can make an impact.”

Now Slatky wants to provide the opportunity to make an impact on a family to CCU faculty, staff and students through the new Coastal Carolina University Adopts-A-Family Program.

Here’s how it works: Individuals volunteer in groups and pledge to feed a family for Thanksgiving. Volunteers can expect baskets made for families with one to two members to cost $30. As the size of the family increases, so do the portions and value of the basket. A family of nine or more members receives a basket valued at around $65.

According to Slatky, food baskets have “all the fixins' for a traditional Thanksgiving meal,” with minimum requirements.

“There has to be a turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, corn, carrots, green beans, cranberry sauce and dessert,” she says. Kid-friendly items are also encouraged, such as fun-shaped macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, applesauce and bottled juice.

Another side benefit is the leftovers. Slatky says families should end up with a holiday meal and food to store in their pantry. The goal is to adopt a minimum of 35 families, but Slatky is hoping for more. She recently appeared on the “Coastal Today” TV program, and hopes to go on local radio shows to raise awareness for the project and to garner as many donations as possible.

The idea to bring the Adopts-A-Family philanthropy to CCU originated in Slatky’s capstone course, where students learned they would be required to perform an act of civic duty.

“Honestly, I was freaking out,” she says. “I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do, and my deadline was coming up. I was struggling.”

Inspiration came from her communication activism class, where Slatky was assigned to write a paper on a rewarding feat of activism. Also in that class, a guest speaker spoke one day about the hunger rates in Horry County. A requirement of the paper provided the final stitch in her plan.

“We were required to stand up in class and explain it, and all of a sudden it clicked,” she says.

Next was a visit to CCU’s coordinator of Civic Engagement & Orientation, Jordan Smith, who got involved when Slatky came to his offices looking for help.

“I believe it’s an inspiring project,” he says. “I can come up with ideas all day, but things really start to happen when students turn their passions into actions. This is the case for Nicole. I was very fortunate that she knew to seek out Civic Engagement.”

Smith and coordinator of leadership & civic engagement Nick DeStefano are Slatky’s one-two punch in guiding the project’s logistics.

“Our role in the project is advising Nicole as she puts her capstone into action,” says Smith, “helping her coordinate with various organizations in the community to generate the families who will receive the meals.”

Slatky says helping people has always been a passion of hers. In high school, she was a member of the Student Leadership Organization, which gave her a chance to assist students living with autism, participate in a fundraiser for a family whose house burned down, and raise money for a young boy diagnosed with cancer.

She also credits her parents, David and Jackie Slatky, with demonstrating what it means to give. She recounts a time where they adopted a family for Christmas and was surprised by the items their family asked for.

“They wanted clothes: winter coats, sweaters, jeans, things like that,” she says. “I’ll never forget when my mom and I went to Kohl’s and spent $350 on things you don’t think about not having, like boots, jackets and blankets. That’s where my passion comes from, seeing my parents always giving back.”

Slatky speaks so ardently about bringing this program to CCU, it’s easy to forget that this began as a class project. If she has her way, however, the CCU Adopts-A-Family Program will become something more than just a class assignment.

“Nicole has laid the groundwork, so it is my hope that we can continue to provide families with Thanksgiving meals for years to come,” says Smith. “Become a tradition? I believe that the tradition will be that the CCU family steps up for our neighbors, and this is just ‘what we do,’ so I can definitely see it becoming a tradition.”

And that is something Slatky is definitely down for.

“I wouldn’t mind leaving a legacy at Coastal,” she says.

Anyone interested in donating or adopting a family can contact Slatky at 909-917-7034, or email her at naslatky@g.coastal.edu.

 

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