UI employees’ efforts brighten the holidays for others
The approaching holiday season will fall far short as “the most wonderful time of the year” for the many people who are struggling just to feed, house and clothe their families, let alone buy toys for the children and trinkets for the adults. And even though the UI’s faculty and staff members aren’t immune from the repercussions of the economic recession, they’re still opening their hearts and wallets to help make the season a little brighter for others.
Recognizing that moms and dads need some holiday cheer, and necessities such as clothing as well, members of the Secretariat are providing gifts for a mother and her two small children through the Faculty-Staff Assistance Program’s Adopt-a-Family initiative. D.J. Weidler, chair of the Secretariat’s new Philanthropy Committee, is leading the effort to collect new clothing, bedding, children’s videos and grocery and department store gift cards for the family.
Secretariat members chose the Adopt-a-Family program because they wanted the committee’s inaugural philanthropic endeavor to improve life for a UI employee and their family, Weidler said. While maintaining confidentiality about the family’s identity, the Faculty-Staff Assistance Program provided information such as the children’s ages, clothing sizes and interests so that donors can select appropriate gifts, which members of the Secretariat will wrap prior to delivery.
“I’ve participated in these drives before, and it’s always the same thing,” said Weidler, an office manager at Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services. “The mother is very reluctant to provide information about herself because she wants everything to go to her kids. That always gives me chills because it just shows the lengths that people are willing to go to in order to provide for their children.”
Likewise, employees at the Veterinary Medicine Basic Sciences building are secret Santas who go to great lengths to ensure that area families are warm, fed and have fun each holiday season by collecting toys, food and clothing. For the past 14 years, they have collected toys for the Salvation Army/Champaign County Toys for Tots and over the years have donated nearly 3,000 toys. “That is an awful lot of little smiles,” Gary Cutler, assistant facilities manager, wrote in an e-mail thanking employees for their donations, which totaled 438 toys last year. “Think of how thrilled all those children will be to open up that love you poured out to them.”
In addition to the toys, people at Vet Med donated 150 pounds of food for the Eastern Illinois Food Bank and three large bags of winter clothing for Salt and Light last year.
“We get a great deal of pleasure doing this,” said Cutler, who is collecting toys, food and winter clothing again this year and will haul the donations to the appropriate organizations.
Additionally, pet lovers in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Teaching Hospital are collecting pet food and other supplies for animals at the Champaign County Humane Society. Donations will be delivered in early January.
“When we surveyed hospital employees about all the group activities organized over the year, this was by far the most popular,” said Christine Beuoy, director of communications for the college.
As they have done for the past several years, employees at Beckman are donating toys to the Salvation Army’s annual toy drive again this year. “A lot of people have told us they enjoy participating in the toy drive because they hope their donation can make a child’s holiday a little brighter,” said Sue Johnson, manager of external relations. “My little girl, Amalie, and I have made a tradition out of going to the store and choosing a toy. She then loves coming by Beckman to drop the toy in the box.”
In addition to collecting toys for children served by the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club, the Division of Campus Recreation will host a party for 40 of the children at the Activities and Recreation Center on Dec. 18, when the children will receive their presents and participate in various activities.
Giving is a tradition for staff members in the department of electrical and computer engineering too, who select a charity to support each holiday season, collect donations and present a check to a representative of the chosen organization at their departmental holiday luncheon in December, according to Brad Petersen, assistant director of communications. Last year’s beneficiary was the Champaign County Humane Society, which received a donation of more than $1,200.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
The charity initiatives mentioned here are just a few of the many charity drives under way this year that reflect the generous spirit of people in the campus community. If you’d like to contribute:
Salvation Army toy drive – New unwrapped toys accepted through Dec. 19 at 1329 Beckman Institute or the Receiving Area at the VetMed Basic Sciences Building (8 a.m. -noon, 1-4:30 p.m.).
New, unopened, nonperishable food items for the Eastern Illinois Food Bank, and new or used winter clothing in good condition for Salt & Light also accepted through Dec. 15 at VMSB Receiving Area.
Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club toy drive – New unwrapped toys may be dropped off in the Wellness Center at Activities and Recreation Center before Dec. 15.
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