LaRayia Gatson

LaRayia Gatson, founder and executive director of Lunch on Me, will be the National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week keynote speaker at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15, in the John C. Guyon Auditorium at Morris Library. She will also be at the Carbondale Pavilion that day from noon to 2 p.m. for a luncheon, games and music. (Photo provided)

November 10, 2023

SIU recognizes Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week with service, leadership activities

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale will recognize National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week with a variety of special activities Nov. 11-17, coinciding with Leadership and Service Week.

“As we began discussing National Hunger and Homelessness Week, food insecurity and how it affects students and the community, we became aware that it is also a great opportunity for Leadership and Service Week,” said Aimee Lemrise, SIU Sustainability Office director. “This particular week seems to bring together so many components of the university’s Imagine 2030 strategic plan pillars, including sustainability; student success and engagement; and diversity, equity and inclusion, that we wanted to plan some events to bring attention to sustainability and the other pillars and highlight our commitments to them. In addition, throughout the week, we will be collecting food for the Saluki Food Pantry, along with winter clothing and hygiene products. You can find collection boxes in various locations around campus.”

Diverse activities planned, public welcome

While some of the events are focused on students or the campus community, most are open to the general public, and there is no cost to attend.

The schedule for the week, with all events open to the public unless otherwise specified, includes:

Saturday, Nov. 11

  • Saluki Rainbow Network Drag Show, 7 p.m., Student Center, Ballroom D. Everyone is welcome to attend, but minors must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Monday, Nov. 13

  • Showcasing Our Salukis, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Student Center, students can prepare for the future and careers by getting professional photos at the Headshot Studio.
  • Join in a service project at 5 p.m. at the Sustainability Hub, located in the Student Center. Volunteers will be making care bags for people without homes.

Tuesday, Nov. 14

  • Alumni Speaks: featuring Mildred Williams at noon in the Old Main Room at the Student Center. Williams, a 2011 alumna of SIU and coordinator of the Black Resource Center, will share her experience with homelessness and houselessness and explain the difference. Sarah Alli-Brown, a sophomore journalism major from Chicago who is coordinator of the Black Affairs Council, will interview Williams as she shares about her journey and tells how she hopes to guide students to develop tools of healing so they can thrive and excel.
  • Sustaining Our Service: Women in Leadership, an evening of motivating discussions and team-building activities, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Touch of Nature Outdoor Education Center. The event includes dinner. While there is no cost to attend, participants must RSVP by emailing by Monday.

Wednesday, Nov. 15

  • Feeding the Community, featuring LaRayia Gatson founder and executive director of Lunch on Me, noon to 2 p.m. at the Carbondale Pavilion. Enjoy a free lunch, games and music. Gatson will speak at 5 p.m. in the John C. Guyon Auditorium at Morris Library that evening, discussing her program, hunger, unity, empowerment and hope as well as shining a light on people who are often invisible. A reception with light refreshments will follow her evening keynote address.

Thursday, Nov. 16

  • Breakfast for SIU student leaders at the Student Center Ballroom A at 9 a.m.
  • Serving through Leadership Luncheon, noon-1 p.m., Student Center Ballroom A, with Tina Owens as special guest speaker. Owens is an alumna of SIU, with a bachelor’s degree in health care management, and holds a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Columbia Southern University. She served in the Coast Guard for 22 years. She completed Officer Candidate School in Connecticut and served on the guard’s only tall ship, sailing from Puerto Rico to South America and back to New London, during which time she was the only female medical support.

During her career, she served at duty stations in New York City, Virginia, North Carolina, California, New Jersey and Hawaii. After retiring in 2017, she became a patient-centered medical home certified content expert and helps less-fortunate children in middle Tennessee get much-needed health care.

Lunch will be provided.

The activities are sponsored by the Sustainability Office, the Black Resource Center, the Office of Student Engagement, and the Center for Service-Learning and Volunteerism.