Cooley Cares provides 300 holiday meals


– Photos courtesy of Thomas M.  Cooley Law School-Auburn Hills

By John Minnis
Legal News

Efforts by students at Thomas M. Cooley-Auburn Hills Law School to provide Thanksgiving meals to disadvantaged families in Pontiac have grown exponentially over the past several years.

When Cooley-Auburn Hills law student Emery McClendon began the Thanksgiving meal drive for less-fortunate Pontiac families in 2008, he and his fellow students and faculty and staff provided 100 meals.
The following year, 2009, they boxed 200 meals.

This year, the Cooley Cares - Feeding 300 program — in partnership with the Oakland County Bar Association, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Pontiac High School and the City of Pontiac — provided 300 Thanksgiving meals with all the trimmings to Pontiac families who likely would have gone without.

McClendon, now a third-year law student serving an externship in California, was not able to help out this year. Taking his place as meal master was Rudy Glynn Vrba, also a 3L.

“I didn’t realize how much work it was,” he said, “or I might not have done it.”

Nevertheless, by 10 a.m. on Monday morning, he and his fellow students were nearly finished boxing 300 meals, including two cans of green beans, two cans of corn, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, rolls, mac and cheese, pop, cake mix and frosting.

Students in six vehicles had already delivered the 300 turkeys to Pontiac International Baccalaureate/New Tech High School, where they filled the school’s walk-in freezer.

The turkeys came from the Restaurant Depot, where Vrba was able to get the 12- to 15-pound birds for $1.09 a pound, which he thought was a pretty good deal.

“The price of turkey went up this year,” he said. “When you’re buying 300 turkeys, $1.10 or $1.20 a pound makes a difference.”
At 4,000 pounds of turkey, Vrba is right.

The students went to Sam’s Club for stuffing, green beans, corn, etc., and “emptied the shelves” at Meijer’s of mashed potatoes. “We cleaned out Meijer’s of every box of mashed potatoes they had,” Vrba said.

Two-liter bottles of pop were bought at Wal-Mart.

“It’s mostly been just a logistical effort,” Vrba said.

Once the foodstuffs were assembled in Room 145 at the Auburn Hills campus, the boxing was an assembly-line effort.

Now came the problem of transporting 300 boxes to the Pontiac high school.

“Who’s got a truck or van?” Vrba shouted.

The Cooley Cares Thanksgiving meal drive was truly a school-wide effort, involving students, faculty and staff.

“If you walk into this building everyday, you did something,” Vrba said. “Everyone helped with this. Even the custodians helped lug stuff around.”

Cooley Cares raised $5,200 to purchase turkeys and foodstuffs for the 300 Thanksgiving meals, with some leftovers for next year.

“We came in under budget,” Verba said, “which will be a good start for next year.”

When asked whether 300 meals was the upper limit of what the school could do for Thanksgiving meals for Pontiac’ disadvantaged, Vrba would not agree.

“Once you’ve done 200 or 300 meals,” he said, “doing 100 more would not be a problem.”

Next year’s goal: 400 meals? Don’t bet against Cooley Cares.