The aroma of grilled bread, butter, and gooey cheese wafted through the plaza in front of Newman Library’s café during University Libraries’ Cheesy Nights. In December 2021, more than 60 volunteers, including parents, members of the Virginia Tech Police Department, and Hokies near and far used creativity, hard work, and a whole lot of love to make sure this finals week tradition continued after a pandemic-caused hiatus. 

Cheesy Nights was back, but looked a bit different.

When organizers and parents proposed the idea of bringing it back but staging it outside instead of on the second floor of Newman Library, the police department offered its mobile Command Center. The Virginia Tech Police Department has been a staunch Cheesy Nights supporter for almost a decade and didn’t hesitate to jump in to help make it happen. The department’s 33-foot heated RV has lights, electricity, and storage areas for holding hundreds of loaves of bread and bags of marshmallows. 

 Volunteers brought backyard grill-sized griddles and made sure there was enough supplies to cook up thousands of crispy sandwiches and serve hundreds of snack bags and pounds of fruit. This time, the menu expanded to include vegan and gluten free options; and the number of sandwiches served increased as well.

Therese Walters, Cheesy Nights founder, co-organizer, and wife of University Libraries Dean Tyler Walters, said this was the biggest Cheesy Nights yet. “We knew if we did this really close to the building in front of the café, it would work,” said Walters. “We are cooking and serving a lot more sandwiches because we’re outside.”

Co-organizer Phil Scott was thrilled they could take Cheesy Nights outside and offer both students who pass by the library and those who are studying inside a chance for a break. “They find out that Cheesy Nights is happening and they have food to eat,” said Scott. “At this point in the semester, they might not have food to eat.”

An array of cups full of hot chocolate, marshmallows, and wooden stirring sticks. "400 ounces of marshmallows."
A table with pans full of sliced bread loaves. "407 loaves of bread"
A volunteer peeling apart a slice of cheese to place onto a slice of bread. "170 pounds of cheese; 105 pounds of butter."
A volunteer outside dressed in warm clothes keeping watch of the grill that contains grilled cheese sandwiches. "More than 60 volunteers."

Justin Shelton, a fourth-year finance major, was glad to see the warm, buttery sandwiches and hot chocolate waiting for him. “I spent the last five days and a total of 50 hours in the library working on final projects,” said Shelton. “It was a relief to walk by and see this. It relieves some of the stress of finals.”

Students expressed their gratitude to the volunteers. Heidi Elgaili, a third-year management major, said she remembers when Cheesy Nights was held indoors during her freshman year and how nice it was. Now, she’s thankful Cheesy Nights is back and held outside. 

“Everyone who talked to us was so nice and so great,” said Elgaili. “It’s good that it’s outside because you get a chance for some fresh air and to exchange kindness.”

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