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School of Business Professor leads creative effort to help Chautauqua County Rural Ministry
Thursday, December 22, 2011

Unused student meal points at SUNY Fredonia took on new mission at the end of the fall semester; they’re helping to replenish the shelves at Chautauqua County Rural Ministry, at a time when the agency that serves the needy has an even greater need for assistance from the community. 

Dr. Shazad Mohammed encouraged students to turn their unused meal points into donated items for the Chautauqua County Rural Ministry before they left fro the semester break.
In the week leading up to final exams, a SUNY Fredonia marketing professor announced an initiative to benefit Rural Ministry. The human services agency was dealt a severe blow Dec. 3 by a sewer line obstruction and resulting backup that damaged merchandise and forced it to temporarily suspend use of the thrift store, soup kitchen and offices. Dr. Shazad Mohammed asked his students to consider donating any unopened, non-perishable food items they didn’t want to cart home.
But that wasn’t his only appeal.
Drawing on his marketing expertise, Mohammed took his Rural Ministry campaign to the next level by suggesting students use excess points — what’s left on their fall term meal plans — to purchase items at campus convenience stores and donate them to the campaign.
“Hailing from a third-world country has created a strong aversion to waste on my part. My business approach has been to ‘think different’ in my projects,” said Dr. Mohammed, who was born in Trinidad. He was also taught by his parents and influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa to address the needs of all people. “It’s a universal desire to give back,” he said.
Mohammed enlisted social media and the surrounding community to broaden his call for donations. He utilized Facebook to target friends and sent information to the School of Business listserve. SUNY Fredonia webmaster Jonathan Woolson posted the campaign on another campus listserve accessible to all faculty and staff. Mohammed also approached business owners in Fredonia to play a supportive role.
Reaction to the early-December appeal has been overwhelming positive, nearly filling Mohammed’s Thompson Hall office with donations. By Tuesday he had collected 331 pounds of food and 111 pounds of clothing, and anticipated another 50 pounds of food and even more clothing on Wednesday. Among standout supporters was Brittany Fischer, a student who gave items totaling $300. Donations have come from a variety of sources. Mohammed also offered to personally match total monetary contributions up $1,000.
“The matching dollar challenge is an incentive for others who want to go the financial route as well,” Mohammed said. He also suggested anyone could ask a friend donate $2.50, and then match that donation. “You now have $5 that can acquire five items from the dollar store. Transform small amounts for the biggest effect,” Mohammed explained.
“And it looks like I’m going to be writing a check for $1,000 on Friday because financial contributions have been very generous. I will be collecting things until Christmas Eve, so people can still donate. Everyone (at Rural Ministry) will be happy to know it will be a very happy Christmas down there because that’s what we want to have happen.”

Dr. Mojtaba Seyedian, chair of the Business Administration department, and School of Business Secretary Bobbi Tabak sort through student and faculty donations made to Dr. Shazad Mohammed’s end-of-semester campaign to benefit Chautauqua County Rural Ministry.
Rural Ministry officials are delighted with Mohammed’s campaign. “I thought this was such a unique and thoughtful opportunity to help an organization that helps so many people throughout the county. SUNY Fredonia has been very supportive of Rural Ministry in so many ways, and this is just another way of helping us to help those in need,” said Rural Ministry Executive Director Kathleen Peterson.
The food drive also increases the linkage between the campus and surrounding community, a goal that Mohammed contemplated much of the year. Mohammed has assisted Rural Ministry on three occasions this past spring and worked with the campus chapter of Delta Mu Delta, the international business honor society, to contribute food stocks to the pantry before Thanksgiving.
“On behalf of the board of directors, I am happy to have the opportunity to express our gratitude to Dr. Mohammed for his generous and rather unique approach to helping Rural Ministry and those we serve at a time of special need for the organization,” added Peggy Tiffany, president of the board of directors, who was at Rural Ministry’s Central Avenue office Wednesday morning when a faculty member dropped off a check.
Mohammed presented the same meal point proposal his classes in the spring term, and nearly 80 percent of students embraced the idea.
Beyond Gandhi and Mother Theresa, Mohammed also draws inspiration from perhaps a less obvious source, as he paraphrases Elvis Presley: “I don't aim to be a role model, but I've tried never to do anything that would hurt my family or offend God. I figure all anyone needs is hope and a feeling that they belong. If I could do or say anything that would give someone that feeling, I would believe I had contributed something of value to my community.”
Drop-off boxes have been located on campus (Reed Library, Mason Hall student lounge, Center for Multicultural Affairs, Foundation House) and off-campus (Green Tea Room, Buster Brown Bean Bistro and Midas Auto Service).

No donation is too small; every little bit helps, Mohammed said. Daily deliveries from Mohammed’s office will be made to Rural Ministry through Christmas Eve.


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