From Alden Library to the Office of the President, all the way to the regional campuses, members of the OHIO community are reaching out this holiday season. Instead of a gift exchange, many offices are opting to pool their resources to spread their good fortune and cheer to surrounding charities and families.
“Everybody helps, and everybody contributes,” said Annette Talbert, head of circulation services at Alden Library. The library has a longstanding tradition of holding a potluck luncheon and auction where participants can make a charitable donation.
This year the library has collected more than $800. The funds will be used to purchase gifts for eight children selected from the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Athens County* angel tree.
The Alden employees are not the only people on campus who are getting involved. Several offices have “adopted” families through the Athens County Children Services Santa Tree Christmas Project*. Participants in the project donate food, clothing, toys and home necessities to impoverished families in Athens County. Six Ohio University offices are taking part this year. Other staffs have done similar projects through schools, church groups and other community organizations.
Participating in the Santa Tree program, the Office of the President has experienced one of the positive side effects of giving -- it has brought the office closer together.
“We had a potluck lunch on Dec. 7 to wrap gifts,” Presidential Assistant Cindy Cowie said. “As we were doing it people would poke their heads in and ask about it. It was such a good effort, and we hope to expand it next year.”
The spirit of giving has already has expanded within the office this year. University Communications and Marketing, who work under the auspices of the Office of the President, have also adopted a family.
International giving is being carried out on the Zanesville campus. There, the Friends of Literary Improvement (FLI) and library staff have “adopted” three American soldiers stationed overseas. This year they will sending a total of 518 items and 150 holiday cards to servicemen and women.
In one of many food drives throughout campus, the University Advancement staff is supporting the Second Harvest Food Bank’s “Backpack Program*.” The program reaches out to children who receive free lunches at school to provide them with a backpack that Second Harvest* fills with food for the weekend. University Advancement is also collecting jars of peanut butter for the backpacks and hopes to reach 400 jars.
The College of Osteopathic Medicine’s faculty and staff are sharing their table’s bounty as well. Their annual collection for the Athens County Food Bank has brought in more than 300 pounds of food, and donations are still being accepted. The Office of Information Technology is also collecting food for the Athens Elks Christmas Basket Project. Baskets will be delivered to 96 local families in need.
Many departments in Ohio University are not just reaching out to those in need in the surrounding community; they are looking within their own campus communities. The Chillicothe campus is making donations of money and canned goods to the family of a child who attends their Child Development and Family Service Center. Last year they raised more than $800 for a family with four children.
The Lancaster campus is showing support for one of its students. Members of Phi Theta Kappa, faculty and staff wrapped household, personal care items and gifts for the family.
"Several years ago we realized that we didn't need to look to community organizations for people in need,” said Carolyn Bateson, the administrative coordinator in the Office of the Dean. “When we joined with the members of Phi Theta Kappa, we began assisting students and their families."
Eastern campus has found a way to get the youngest community members involved in their good works. On Dec. 22, Eastern campus will host Hoops for HoHo, a children’s basketball clinic through the athletic department. The event is free to attend if children bring a new or gently used book or toy to be donated to a local charity.
For many offices this is the first year of giving, but for others it is a part of an established custom. This year the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost will continue its tradition of holiday giving, and Alden Library will mark its tenth year of collecting donations through the potluck luncheon. Many staffs have lost count of how many years have passed since their first request for donations.
“You don’t realize how much you have until you’re confronted with a child who is asking for a coat,” Talbert said. “Every gift and donation can make a big difference.”