By Ryan Clark
NEW YORK – Ariel Brito always wanted to attend a college like Xavier.
He attended Catholic school all his young life, and as a promising baseball player, he looked to be on the road to success.
“But I got into some drinking, and some drugs,” he says, sitting on a plastic chair in the cafeteria room. “Then I got into selling drugs. Then I got arrested. Now I’m sober—five years, thank God—and I live with my Mom down on 135th and Broadway.”
Brito took a piece of bread and moved his chair up closer to his table, where four others also sat. They ate, and as they did they avoided each other’s eyes.
“I don’t know—I spent so much time surrounding myself with the wrong people,” says the 32-year-old. “Now I come to this place, with these people, and it just feels safe. It feels like home.”
The place he’s referring to is the Four Star Soup Kitchen on West 114th Street here in New York. As Xavier alumni and students descended upon the city for the Big East Tournament Wednesday, a group of about 50 current Musketeers volunteered for a few hours at the soup kitchen.
Students prepared, served food and cleaned at the site for about 100 people—people like Brito, who have known hard times. And by getting a sandwich and a smile, sometimes their times are made a little better.
"It's about doing more for others," junior Paul Fritschner says as he chops lettuce at a long table. "It's about giving back."
The soup kitchen, located just a block from Columbia University, has been operating since 1982, and people can come in to dine, shower or get information from several medical officials. Of course, the food seems to be the main attraction. Meals normally include a soup or salad, a main course and dessert—all served to the people restaurant-style three days a week.
“We serve our guests,” says volunteer Beverly Campbell. “It’s a basic thing. It’s about respect. We make them feel good.”
Libby Acker, the senior president of the X-Treme Fans, coordinated the trip to the kitchen.
“We all love to come out to New York and go to basketball games, but we also have to remember Xavier’s mission,” she says. “We have to give back. We want to serve and be men and women for others.”
Sophomore Tim Kramer says he’s been serving in soup kitchens since he was in high school in Mahwah, N.J. He jumped at the chance to get involved.
“You don’t really see sometimes how much other people are struggling,” he says. “It’s rewarding to help out and maybe make their day a little better.”
Brito says that in another life, maybe he could see himself attending a college like Xavier, maybe he would have played baseball. Maybe he would have gone on a service trip like these students are doing.
“I just say thanks to you,” he says, taking a drink of water. “Thanks to all these people. They help more than they know.”