The Catholic University of America

June 3, 2010

CUA Junior Wins $10,000 Scholarship for Sandwich Project for the Homeless

Competition Encourages Use of Social Media to Promote Community Service

  Kristen Laubacker (Photo courtesy of Ryan A. Corl)

A rising Catholic University junior has won a $10,000 scholarship for herself and $10,000 for a Washington, D.C., community kitchen by developing a prototype of a service project called the Lunch Bag Brigade, which provides sandwiches for the homeless.

Kristen Laubacker, a media studies major from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., won first place last month in the Call to Service Competition sponsored by the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation. As part of the competition, Laubacker used the tools of social media — blogging, Facebook, Twitter and videos on YouTube — to promote her project, done in partnership with D.C. Central Kitchen, which received $10,000 from the foundation.

Laubacker, who is also minoring in art and English, received help in promoting the Lunch Bag Brigade from rising junior Maggie Bykowski, host of a show on WCUA, Catholic University’s online radio station. Bykowski, an English major from Brookeville, Md., ran a public service announcement about the project in mid-April.

The competition is designed to spark the humanitarian spirit of communications majors by challenging them to develop a service initiative that makes an impact in their community, according to the foundation’s website. Laubacker and the second- and third-place winners, who won $5,000 and $2,000 respectively, were chosen for the strength and effectiveness of their projects.

Laubacker will be honored at the foundation’s Celebration of Service to America Awards on June 14 at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill.

The CUA student, who hopes to do fundraising for a non-profit organization following her CUA graduation, said the competition gave her the opportunity to test an idea — a bagged lunch program for the homeless — that she had first thought about creating as a high school student in Poughkeepsie.

As part of her research for the project, Laubacker learned that about 12,000 people in the D.C. metropolitan area have no housing.

“While I can’t build a house, I can make a lunch,” she says.

After raising money for supplies through social networking, Laubacker spent about an hour and a half on April 14 making 150 peanut-butter-and-jelly and turkey-and-cheese sandwiches with the help of boys in sixth, seventh and eighth grades at the Washington Jesuit Academy in Northeast D.C. The next day, Laubacker drove with two D.C. Central Kitchen outreach specialists to Southeast Washington to distribute the sandwiches.

“I never cease to be amazed by the parade of young people that walk through our doors and who are so completely committed to making a difference in their communities,” says Michael F. Curtin Jr., chief executive officer of D.C. Central Kitchen and the Campus Kitchens Project. “I’ve been particularly impressed by Kristen.”

“While the grant award we will receive is a huge bonus and $10,000 that we will use extremely well, I am sure the value of the lessons Kristen learned doing her project will benefit all of us in the community for years to come.”

Laubacker says that one of the critical elements of the project is motivating the volunteers who prepare the sandwiches. “The boys were so excited to help,” she says. “Motivating your volunteers is one of the goals of the project. It isn’t just about making lunches; it’s about encouraging volunteers to do community service.”

As part of her project, Laubacker created the “Guide to Running Your Own Lunch Bag Brigade.” She has distributed it to schools and parishes around the country and hopes they will consider adopting it as a service project for their students.

For more information about Laubacker’s project, watch her video blog entry at

The National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to serving broadcasters and the public interest by supporting and advocating community service, diversity, education, and broadcasting issues and trends.

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