It all started simply enough—a homeless man outside of a McDonald’s drive through asking a few college students for some spare change. It’s an occurrence that, as disheartening as it may be, Loyola students encounter on a fairly regular basis when navigating Baltimore.
We all have different ways of responding to such a situation. Some people would scurry by, pretending not to have heard the man. Others, uncomfortably patting their pockets, might tell him that they don’t have any money to give, or perhaps reach into their pockets to offer some spare change that they might be carrying. Dave McShane, however, who found himself in this exact situation with a few friends, had a different idea.
“Seeing that this man looked like he was facing some very difficult times, we found it to be more beneficial to offer him a meal from McDonald’s rather than some spare change,” McShane recalls. “After giving this man his meal he was so grateful and it made us feel really good. So we decided to grow it into something bigger.”
That “something bigger” has come in the form of The McChicken Project.
Along with Will Mann, Josh Alexander, and Grant Latran, Dave McShane, a junior at Loyola, is a co-founder of The McChicken Project. The organization is comprised of Loyola students and goes out into the city once a week to feed Baltimore's homeless.
Every Friday, the group uses funds collected through donations on their website to order about 80 McChickens and 100 water bottles. Then, after meeting in the Newman parking lot at 3 PM, the founders, along with anywhere from five to ten volunteers will head down to St. Vincent DePaul Church, where a significant homeless population can be found. According to Dave, going to this location allows the McChicken Project to assist the greatest number of people possible.
For Dave, The McChicken Project is about more than just distributing food every week.
“We usually end up staying for over an hour most weeks talking to everyone and listening to their stories,” he says. With many of the same homeless people returning week after week, Dave says that he has really enjoyed having the opportunity to build friendships with them.
“It has changed my opinion on homeless people and opened my mind to be more accepting of all people. It is a very humbling experience,” he says.
From veterans to mothers to fathers, Dave talked about some of the amazing people that The McChicken Project has given him the chance to meet. He mentioned one particular trip downtown, during which he met a man named “Peoples” who was due to try out for The Voice the following weekend.
Listening to Peoples' story about his struggle with addiction, leading to time in rehab and eventually homelessness, left a particular mark on Dave. But it’s stories like this that have motivated him and other volunteers to put in the amount of work that they do for the project.
When asked about why he is most proud of the work that The McChicken Project does, Dave pointed to friendships like this that he says have truly impacted him.
As successful as The McChicken Project has been, Dave has bigger aspirations for the group. “We hope to see its funding grow in order to provide more for the homeless, and also have underclassmen take over the tradition of Friday afternoons after we graduate next year to keep the project growing.”
To donate, or to find out how you can get involved with The McChicken Project, check out their website, their Facebook page or follow their Instagram page @McChickenproject.