More than 300 good Samaritans brought their appetites and wallets to the University of Bridgeport on Monday to attend a massive fundraising lunch that raised $7,717 to support Red Cross relief efforts in Nepal.

“I’m overwhelmed! We thought maybe we’d get $3,000 but when we heard it was over $7,000, it was like ‘My gosh!’” said Satyam Shrestha, one of the 12 UB students from Nepal who organized the fundraiser with help from UB’s International Student Services.

While their immediate families were thankfully spared by the massive earthquake that upended the country on April 25, the students said they will return to a homeland that was completely changed and felt compelled to act.

“We are far from home but this is what we wanted to do, “said Sunil Singh.

Devastation by the earthquake may never be fully tallied, but officials say that more than a half a million homes have been destroyed, more than 7,500 have died, and at least 15,000 have been injured to date.

In the face of such a tragedy, the student organizers said they were buoyed by the flood of support for their fundraiser. Shrestha said he was able to contact his family back in Nepal via Facebook on Monday night, and he told them how much money they raised at the lunch and let everyone know that people in the U.S. cared about helping. “He was very proud,” Shrestha added.

Mark Rozelle, a volunteer with American Red Cross, which is receiving all proceeds from Monday’s fundraiser, told lunch-goers that the American Red Cross has been invited to help Nepal’s Red Cross by providing food, water, shelter, and reconnecting victims who were separated by the quake.

“Please remember that the need doesn’t go away when the headlines do,” Rozelle said. “These efforts are going to take years. Anything you can do, no matter how small, can make a huge difference in someone’s life.”

Clearly, many are hearing the call to action. Twenty-one restaurants from throughout Fairfield County contributed a salmagundi of international food — Indian, Turkish, Italian, Japanese, and more — for the lunch.

Donations were also provided by the UB Chinese Student and Scholar Association; student Hosam Faqeha, who is president of the Saudi Student Club; Barbara Benedict, an admissions counselor at UB’s School of Continuing Education and Professional Studies; the UB Book Store, and the Office of Residential Life and Student Conduct.

Summed up Rozelle: “It shows the reach of the campus. It’s tremendous. It was like going to a United Nations lunch today; it was fantastic.”

Media contact: Leslie Geary, (203) 576-4625, lgeary@bridgeport.edu