Monday, November 23, 2020

By Victoria Brito Morales

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – The season for giving has begun, but for UTRGV student organization Enactus, philanthropy is a year-round mission.

The chapter, created in fall 2015 at the Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship, is gearing up for its annual “Cansgiving” event to provide full turkey meals for families in need on Thanksgiving.

“This year has been an especially difficult year for Valley families,” said Maria Leonard, UTRGV Enactus faculty adviser. “And the goal of this student organization is to make the holiday a little brighter for those in need.” 

Since the organization’s inception, Enactus has partnered with community organizations to identify families to receive meals. The first Cansgiving in 2015 donated meals to 25 families. That number steadily has increased each year since.

Donations typically are made from canned food drop boxes placed inside the Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship building in Edinburg and several IDEA Public School campuses. This year, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the campus has been all but empty and that avenue was not feasible.

“I didn’t think Cansgiving would be possible this year because we didn’t have cans available,” Leonard said. “But our Enactus students insisted we do this because we felt that, especially because of COVID, the families needed to have their day brightened a little bit. They felt it was their moral imperative to help these families in the community.”

This year, the group received $5,500 in funding from the McAllen Elks Lodge to provide full Thanksgiving meals for 300 families. Additionally, community partners Lineage Cold Storage, Lone Star Citrus and multiple individual donations contributed, allowing the group to continue its tradition of service.

“Cansgiving has become more than just an annual project for us, it has become a tradition,” said Diego Salas, president of the UTRGV Enactus chapter. “Sadly, due to the global pandemic it seemed that we'd be unable to collect the necessary monetary and canned food donations to make the project a reality this year.

“Regardless of the circumstances, though, we forged ahead as a team, hopeful we could still do Cansgiving this year but on a much smaller scale. Our aim was to still be able to have an impact on even a handful of lives.”

In years past, the group has delivered meals to the homes of selected families, but this year, social distancing measures will be taken. Half the dinners will be dropped off to three community centers: San Carlos in Edinburg, Proyecto Desarrollo Humano in Peñitas, and the McAllen Boys and Girls Club in McAllen. The remaining 150 dinners will be available for pick-up during a contactless, drive-by delivery from noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 25, at the McAllen Elks Lodge. 


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.