Feeding the Community

On the first Saturday of each month, Chicago community members in need line up around the block near Ravenswood School to attend the Market Pantry, hosted by Ravenswood Community Services (RCS) and the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD).  The Market Pantry is set up as a farmers market, providing a selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and non-perishable food items at no cost. On these Saturdays, lively conversations and Duke blue shirts are prominent among the volunteers partnering with RCS and GCFD. Volunteers set up tables and upack groceries before the event, distribute and bag groceries during the market, and clean up after shoppers leave.

Of the approximately 20 cities where Fuqua alumni have active social and networking groups, Chicago is unique. Other alumni groups do community service projects, but Ravenswood Market Pantry is the only one with ongoing leadership and consistent programming led by Fuqua alumni.

"A few others may collect food," said Katie Thomasson, Associate Director of Alumni Relations, "but this has been the only one where we had a volunteer who really wanted to give back into the community, and it is the only one that grew the way it did."

In the fall of 2009, David Nabwangu MBA '04, spearheaded the idea and worked with other Fuqua alumni in the area to get a volunteer event started. "We had an active alumni group, and we were trying to get people more involved and more plugged in," Nabwangu said. "One of the ideas we had was to develop this community service-type branch."

In order to fill the need for volunteers, the Chicago Fuqua alumni began cross-promoting with local Duke alumni. The collaboration was a success and strengthened opportunities for networking and growing new friendships.

What the alumni network did for me was provide a foundation for building a network," said Aparupa Bhattacharya MBA '08. "It's a great way to get involved with the community, and a great way to meet people and talk about professional ideas and career opportunities. It's been a good source of friends and friendships, and a way to keep in touch."

To add to the volunteer experience, the group encourages additional networking and fellowship after the event over lunch or while watching a Duke basketball. "It is wonderful to talk to all these intelligent people," said Nabwangu. "That is one of the things I miss from being at Fuqua. When you're around very stimulating individuals, you get to make some very interesting friends and have some very interesting conversations."

For alumni in other areas looking to start new volunteer and social events, Bhattacharya recommends taking a good look at the interests of those in your group.

"Really think about the alumni in your community and what they may want to do," Bhattacharya said. "We have an established group that comes every month because we had enough people who decided our service project was what they wanted to be doing."

To get involved with the Ravenswood Market Pantry, contact Bhattacharya or find out what other Fuqua regional alumni programming is happening in your community.