COLLEGE STATION, Texas — For a crew of Texas A&M students, Tuesday afternoon was all about giving back to the custodial staff at the university. Fish Aides Service Committee and the REACH Project joined forces to put on the annual Custodian Banquet.
This year's event looks different than in years past, but the support and appreciation for the Texas A&M custodial staff may be greater than ever before.
“As students, we want to celebrate the custodians," said Burke Bridges, the event committee planner for Fish Aides. "They serve us so well and make sure our facilities are clean.”
The student organization has been able to put on a banquet for custodians since 2007. Last year’s event was canceled because of COVID-19.
After a year like no other, Fish Aides knew they had to show their appreciation for the Aggies that don’t always get the recognition they deserve. The group needed to get creative on how to put on a banquet for 2021.
“Obviously with the capacity rates, we couldn’t have everyone in a ballroom like we did in the past few years," Bridges said. "We thought it’d be a good idea to do a drive-thru.”
That is when the REACH Project got involved and provided assistance.
“We knew we had to do something, we didn’t want to go two years without a custodial banquet," said Max Gerall, the founder of REACH Project.
The non-profit is no stranger to helping custodians and other invisible Aggies on campus. They have put together drive-thru meal distributions for essential workers and contract service employees working at the university for almost a year.
“I knew that we could provide the experience and the relationships and network needed to push it over the threshold," Gerall said. "With their manpower, desire and passion for serving the custodians, it was a perfect fit.”
That teamwork was put to good use as cars filled Fan Field parking lot and lined the entrance road Tuesday. Within a matter of minutes, custodians picked up their meals and hygiene kits and were on their way out.
The groups served 635 custodians with Easter family-sized meals. Food was donated from Brookshire Brothers. Fish Aides and REACH Project were able to raise money for the items from fundraisers throughout the community.
“This is a great privilege, thank you so much for doing this service for us," said a RELLIS custodial staff member.
Along with the food and hygiene kits, each student volunteer made sure to give a big thanks to each custodian as they drove by.
"Getting to meet the custodians has been fantastic and I wouldn’t have been able to meet them if I wasn’t part of this team," Burke said.
To see the number of students show up and provide support gave Gerall hope to see more change and community impact in the future.
"It’s really, really exciting for me and I hope just the beginning for a lot more to come," Gerall said.