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Leftovers Inspire MBA Students to Begin Helping the Homeless

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A grateful benefactor (far right) receives a meal from Merak members (left to right) Risha Lathiya, Nancy Jaser, and Peggy Chang.

Five Rutgers MBA students are carrying out their own brand of community service by delivering meals to homeless people in Newark.

The students call their informal group Merak, which means a sense of oneness with the universe, and they have delivered as many as 20 meals on recent Sunday nights to homeless people near the Broad Street train station. 

Started by Yashwanth Dhakshana, who is studying finance and strategy in the full-time MBA program at Rutgers Business School, the group also consists of four other first-year MBA students, Peggy Chang, Nancy Chaser, Swarnaa Singh Rajpurohit and Risha Lathiya as well as a young woman named Hannah Panzer. Panzer joined the group after noticing the students distributing meals at the train station.

The meals are simple enough, consisting of foods like fried rice with sides of chicken nuggets and rolls, but they still require about three hours to prepare, according to Dhakshana. Each meal also contains a brownie or piece of cake.

While the meal deliveries started around the holidays – after a celebratory dinner and lots of leftovers – Dhakshana said the members of Merak plan to continue the effort to feed the homeless through May, 2018. "We’re aiming for 1,000 meals before we graduate,” Dhakshana said.

They’re on course to make that goal already. In the past month, Merak has gained some additional volunteers so Dhakshana hopes to begin delivering meals on Saturdays as well. The group is also banking on a food drive to bring in donations that will allow them to put together small packages of non-perishable snacks to provide the homeless with something to supplement the weekend meal deliveries.

Dhakshana said he comes from a family who has always demonstrated charity and kindness. When he was growing up, he said he regularly gave half of his allowance to the poor.

"There are some things you have to do," he said. "Helping others is something you have to do."