By Nicola Ader's standard, her first meet of the track and field season wasn't ideal. Competing at the Air Force Invitational, the Nevada Wolf Pack's five-time All-American finished third in the high jump and fourth in the pentathlon. It wasn't the result she was looking for, but as she flew home from Colorado to Nevada last Sunday, she was still excited.
That's because Sunday is Ader's favorite day of the week. That's the day she volunteers for the Reno Burrito Project, which was created in April by a UNR student looking to help the often overlooked homeless community in Northern Nevada.
"It's definitely my highlight of the week," Ader said on NSN Daily. "It means a lot to me. I've been involved over half a year now. It's just so nice to have a purpose. Everybody is striving to have a purpose, and having a purpose in the community just means a lot to me. Just having the opportunity to help people on the streets through this project is an amazing feeling. You obviously don't do that to post pictures online and say, 'We're so great.' The most important thing to us is to actually head downtown, get to know their names, their stories and see what we can do for them. We post online because we need that financial support or those clothing donations or whatever it is. But it is a project that really brings people together."
The Reno Burrito Project was started by UNR graduate student Blaize Abuntori, who came to the United States from Northern Ghana. In Reno, he was surprised to see people without a home pushing grocery carts downtown since that's not something he typically saw back home in Africa. In April, Abuntori spent $20 to buy four burritos from Beto's and gave them to homeless people. His mission has grown since then with dozens of volunteers cooking, rolling and delivering between 200 and 400 burritos to homeless people each Sunday.
When the pandemic hit in March, Ader was scheduled to fly home to Germany until it passed. But her flight was canceled and she stayed in Reno all summer and joined the Reno Burrito Project shortly after its creation.
"I ended up joining two months into the project," Ader said. "I started getting more and more involved in that project, and started rolling and handing out and the project grew over the last couple of months quite a lot. We received a lot of support in the Reno community already and are so thankful. Basically what the Reno Burrito Project involves, is we use our donations to buy ingredients and we cook and roll burritos. Meanwhile, we have about 300 to 340 every Sunday that we roll and hand out to the houseless people downtown. We also buy water and try to create some hygiene kits from time to time and accept clothing donations. It's evolved into this amazing project, and I'm so thankful for all the resources we have and all the support people from the community give us."