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Alumni Newsmakers

A Holiday Feast for Sandy Victims

Volunteers helped assemble and deliver baskets of food to neighbors in New Jersey after the storm through the Meadowlands Basket Brigade, a service developed by Jai Patel, BBA '06.

Courtesy Jai Patel

What started as a simple Thanksgiving gesture has now become a community movement, according to Jai Patel, BBA '06.

Like many in the GW community, Hurricane Sandy hit close to home for Mr. Patel; his town of Little Ferry, N.J., was severely affected by the super storm that devastated parts of the U.S. East Coast in late October.

He was lucky. Beyond loss of power, neither he nor his family was harmed, nor was their family business, an overhead door company. Almost immediately, Mr. Patel felt the need to take action for others who were not as fortunate.

Mr. Patel's company holds an annual Thanksgiving potluck, and wanted to invite anyone in the community to attend. But many people had lost their cars during the storm and wouldn't be able to travel.

So Mr. Patel, his family, and fellow Little Ferry residents developed the Meadowlands Basket Brigade, a food delivery service for families affected by Sandy. The initial goal was to deliver 42 baskets to families—"42 is a lucky number for our business," Mr. Patel says.

After teaming up with the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce, however, the group was able to stretch its resources. In just 10 days, the brigade surpassed its initial target by almost ninefold and raised enough money to deliver Thanksgiving dinner baskets to 370 families. On Sunday, Nov. 28, the group gathered 80 volunteers to assemble and deliver the goods.

The Basket Brigade is a pay-it-forward project. Each basket is delivered anonymously and contains a note that reads, "This comes to you from someone who cares about you. All we ask is that you take care of yourself well enough to be able to do this for someone else one day."

"It was rewarding to see the look of surprise on the faces of the families in need; they went through such adversity. Finally, on this holiday, they got a little bit of reprieve," Mr. Patel says.

The Basket Brigade—which also includes Mr. Patel's sister, co-worker, and fellow Colonial, Ranee Patel, BA '08—wasn't done yet. After an overwhelming response from volunteers and local businesses, the group organized a second basket donation for New Year's Day. This time, it doubled the number of volunteers.

The spirit of community service is familiar to Mr. Patel. An Eagle Scout, he's had a passion to give back for most of his life. And he brought that passion to GW; he even donned his scout uniform during his admissions interview.

At GW, Mr. Patel found a community of like-minded people, which nurtured his passion for community and for action. "GW taught me how to react," he says. "The student body fosters a culture of resiliency. Colonials don't just sit back; they take part. That's what a Colonial does."

Mr. Patel experienced this firsthand as a student after Hurricane Katrina, when his fraternity, Sigma Nu, helped organize a blood drive the day after the storm. The lesson was reiterated during Mr. Patel's Commencement, in the address by George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush. "I was given a charge to give back and make an impact—it really affected me."

Since graduating from GW, Mr. Patel has followed that charge. Today, 600 families have received a delivery from the Meadowlands Basket Brigade. Through fundraising efforts, more than $20,000 has been donated, in addition to donated services.

If you want to take part in future donations, whether as an individual or a corporation, contact Mr. Patel at

—Melissa Nyman