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The Season of Giving at SLU-Madrid

Holiday giving at SLU-Madrid kicked off this year with a new initiative: The Solidarity Step. Campus Ministry and the Athletics Department joined forces to organize the event and support the local soup kitchen run by the Hermanas Terciarias Capuchinas de la Sagrada Familia. 

Located near campus, the soup kitchen (in Spanish, comedor social) serves the community in SLU-Madrid’s neighborhood. According to Campus Minister Paloma Gómez de Salazar Cordero, it serves approximately 150-200 meals per day to a wide demographic, including those who are unemployed and underemployed, undocumented individuals who do not have access to stable employment and social benefits, elderly people whose pensions do not cover their basic needs, and others. For many, a hot meal at the soup kitchen is their most significant daily source of sustenance. 

The Solidarity Step was envisioned as an opportunity to encourage the SLU-Madrid community to stay active while also tapping into the spirit of Thanksgiving, a day to count blessings and reach out to those in need. Students, faculty and staff, both in Madrid as well as those working and studying remotely, recorded the steps they took the weekend before Thanksgiving. Participants submitted screenshots or photos of their smartphones and fitness trackers to show the steps they took. SLU-Madrid donated one kilo of food to the soup kitchen for every 5,000 steps taken. 

In total, the community recorded 704,182 steps from November 22-23. With many participants also making monetary contributions, SLU was able to donate 141 kilograms of food to the soup kitchen.

The Solidarity Step donations on display

Before 141 kilos of food were taken to the local soup kitchen, donations were displayed at the entrance to San Ignacio Hall in the shape of a Christmas tree. 

For years, SLU-Madrid has organized a faculty and staff toy drive during the holiday season, in collaboration with Asociación AMPARA. This NGO distributes toys to children under the age of three who live in the Association's shared apartments while their mothers reintegrate back into society after having served time in prison for minor offenses.

“For many members of the SLU-Madrid faculty and staff, participating in the toy drive has become a holiday tradition,” said Gómez de Salazar Cordero. “Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the Spanish authorities are not allowing for NGOs to run this kind of toy drive campaign this year.” 

Driven to find another meaningful opportunity for the campus community to give during the holiday season, Gómez de Salazar Cordero reached out to the sisters at the Hermanas Terciarias Capuchinas de la Sagrada Familia to ask if there was another way the SLU-Madrid community could help.

“The soup kitchen is a small space,” explained Gómez de Salazar Cordero. “Patrons are not able to sit down and have a meal inside due to COVID-19 safety protocols. The meals are currently being served in take-away bags. They are still nutritious, hot, home-cooked meals, but they cannot be consumed on the premises. Patrons form lines outdoors, and many will also eat their meals outside. The sisters had the idea to distribute hats, scarves and gloves to those in need when they come to collect their meals.”

In order to supply these warm clothes, Gómez de Salazar Cordero decided the SLU-Madrid holiday giving drive will be a collection of hats, scarves and gloves, with the goal of providing 200 winter items to be distributed among the patrons at the soup kitchen. Donations may be left in San Ignacio Hall Reception or ordered online from a vendor such as Amazon or Decathlon and shipped directly to the University:

Christmas Clothing Drive: Saint Louis University-Madrid
Avenida del Valle, 34
28003, Madrid

“Now, in the midst of the global pandemic, we are called to reach out to those in need,” said Madrid Campus Director and Academic Dean, Paul Vita, Ph.D. “These acts of solidarity are the true embodiment of the Jesuit ideal of being men and women for others.”