The Patriot Pantry relies on volunteers to make sure that Mason's students have access to non-perishable food, basic toiletries, and school supplies, regardless of their ability to afford them. As their team states on their website, "We raise awareness about food insecurity and homelessness within the Mason student population. We strive to educate and unite our community."
The Student Director of the pantry, psychology junior Gary Hooker, has been recognized for his work with Patriot Pantry by receiving the Yara Mowafy Award. This award is presented to students who lead a service project that makes Mason a more inclusive, equitable, and just campus environment. Find out what Gary had to say about the pantry, his psychology major, and Mason in his interview below:
How did you get involved with Patriot Pantry?
My first semester (Fall 2015), the graduate student that started the pantry reached out to my LLC (Leadership and Community Engagement) for volunteers. She needed help in the day-to-day operations of the pantry. After showing dedication for the pantry and the students who use the pantry, the graduate student asked me if I wanted to take it over from her when she graduated in December 2015. So, after about 3½ months of volunteering, I (and Noah Shoates) became the Student Directors of the pantry, and I’ve been involved with the pantry ever since.
How did you feel when your work was recognized by receiving the Yara Mowafy Award?
I feel really good when the work I do is recognized. I don’t work at the pantry for attention; the pantry really is a passion for me. The students of the pantry are such strong people, and I learn a lot from them. However, being recognized for the work makes me very happy!
What is the connection between psychology and public service?
For me, the connection between psychology and public service is serving people. Psychologist attempt to serve people, and the pantry also serves people, to help assist them in being the best person they could be. Hopefully with the support we give students, it allows them to compete with their peers academically, and overall improves their life.
How do you feel the psychology program may have prepared you for work with Patriot Pantry?
The psychology program has made me more aware of things, such as social cues, nonverbal communication, and mental health. When talking with a pantry user, I have to be aware of what I say and how I say it. I try to be cognizant of nonverbal communication, and mental health in general, such as when to recommend additional services to a student.
What made you choose George Mason?
When I’m asked why I chose Mason, I always say, “I don’t know… but I know why I stayed.” Mason has helped me develop in so many areas of my life. Through all of my involvement at Mason accompanied with the atmosphere, I have never regretted my decision of moving 15 hours from home. I love Mason! I am at my best when I am here.
What would be the biggest change you would make in the world if you could?
If I could change one thing in the world… I would make people more accepting of each other’s differences. I know that can be problematic in some ways, but people are fast to shut down differing opinions, without trying to look at the other side. If people could accept people for who they are… that would be wonderful. As long as a person isn’t harming anyone or anything... why not let them do what makes them happy?