Sat. Jul 2nd, 2022

The Off-Campus and Commuter Association (OCCA), along with students representing various student on-campus organizations handed out pretzels to intoxicated people in 17 different locations throughout the streets of West Chester late Thursday night into early Friday morning as part of their Fall Pretzel Service Project. Approximately 186 students helped out with this cause, repesenting 20 student organizations. They handed out 1,330 pretzels between 11:30 p.m. and 2 a.m.

According to Anthony DiJiacomo, president of OCCA, Project Pretzel was designed to help relations between the borough and West Chester University.

“The Fall Pretzel Service Project helps keep the noise complaints and police charges involving alcohol low,” DiJiacomo said. “A pretzel soaks up the alcohol, and chewing it makes it harder to yell. Also, having peers tell others to be safe seems to come across better instead of the cops.”

DiJiacomo also said that the students who volunteer for this project are made more aware of the behavior and noise that occur at night. All volunteers signed a contract stating that they would not drink that night.

Last week’s project was the third time OCCA had handed out pretzels. They started in September with only 10 students and gave out 200 pretzels. In October, along with the students, the Friar’s Society had two tables stationed in town, and they gave out 300 pretzels. Both times, they went from midnight until 2:15 a.m.

“We manage to get rid of all the pretzels every time,” Public Relations chair Kylie Fitzgerald said. “We have given some pretzels to the police and bouncers of some bars.”

They also have printed 60,000 napkins with four different messages to place in the bars as a friendly reminder. The messages include “Stop, don’t walk alone: Be a friend,” Stay safe” and “Warning, time to refuel: Eat before or during drinking.”

According to Fitzgerald, West Chester Borough Council President Paul Fitzpatrick has been very excited about this project.

The project came about over the summer when the executive board of OCCA sat down to discuss different projects they could do for the school year.

The Borough was concerned about the noise and littering in town, and OCCA wanted to improve borough relations.

Fitzgerald and DiJiacomo both said that they wanted to send the message out that OCCA cares about the concerns of the Borough. With this project, they wanted to bring the light to the positives in regards to the students and borough relationships.

The project was brought up at the monthly Town Gown meeting before they started in September, and the borough loved the idea. After the first project, the borough loved it even more.

DiJiacomo said that the Southwest Association of Neighbors Vice-President heard about the project through the Town Gown meetings and wanted to help out by donating money for the cost of the pretzels. SWAN contributed $100 to the cause.

“We see this as an opportunity for neighborhood residents to help support positive actions by the students at WCU,” Martino said in an e-mail to DiJiacomo.

“[This project] is a positive and creative way to try to influence student behavior to the benefit of the entire community,” Martino said.

According to DiJiacomo, it is up in the air as to when they will be doing another one. As long as the other organizations are interested, they would like to do it either every month or at least biannually. They have to figure out the logistics, he said.

DiJiacomo said that there has not be a quantitative change but a qualitative one.

“At the first Town Gown meeting, there were complaints about how the town was noisy again because the students moved back,” DiJiacomo said. “At the last meeting, there was no negativity, which we are not to credit for that, but we are a part of it.”

“What’s important is that everyone is thankful for this project,” Fitzgerald said.

“There was one time that it was a guy’s twenty-first birthday, and he was not in a good condition. His friends came up to us and grabbed some pretzels and were thankful that we were there because they did not want to see their friend a mess.”

The only worry they have had has been about people throwing the pretzels on the streets, but that has not been an issue.

“It has been good and fun,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s very late but fun.”

To get involved with this service project, or to find out more information about OCCA, stop by their office in Room 219 Sykes.

Amanda Tingle is a third-year student majoring in English education with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at AT610629@wcupa.edu.

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