While the weather outside doesn’t always feel like winter, the spirit of the holiday season can be felt at the University of Mary Washington, where students, faculty and staff have found a myriad of ways to give back to the community and the less fortunate.
Across the UMW campus, multiple drives and donations efforts have been occurring throughout the month of December, from large groups to individuals hoping to make a difference. Among them, several groups of students, including UMW club sports teams and the ELS Language Center, have been collecting donations for Toys for Tots. Members of the club sports teams collected more than 60 toys, while the ELS drive will continue through mid-December.
Carol Dye, a senior and UMW women’s varsity basketball team member, took it into her own hands to start a Toys for Tots drive as part of an internship. By asking attendees of UMW basketball games to bring a toy donation in exchange for free admission, she collected more than 90 toys.
UMW’s A Cappella group “One Note Stand” decided to use its annual holiday concert as an outlet to help those less fortunate in the community by requesting concert goers bring non-perishable food items. The group collected 30 cans of food at their performance for the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank, which A Capella president Regina Weiss says is a promising number for the group’s first food drive.
“While 30 seems like a small number I’m really happy with what we collected, and I think in the future we would definitely do it again and hopefully it will yield even more donations,” said Weiss, who is a junior and also a member of COAR, the Community Outreach and Resources center at UMW.
COAR has been helping young children in community schools with their “Headstart Gift Box Drive,” for over a decade. Shoeboxes wrapped by COAR volunteers are filled with items donated from the campus and community such as a new toothbrushes, scarves and gloves, books and toys.
“The kids love them,” said Christina Eggenberger, director of service in the Center for Honor, Leadership and Service. “They get so much joy out of every item in the box – even the toothbrushes.”
According to Eggenberger, this year’s drive had hundreds of volunteers with 700 shoeboxes filled with donations.
“The drive always reminds me how generous our community is,” said Eggenberger.
Even after students leave Fredericksburg to return home for winter break the giving at UMW will continue on through Dec. 17, with the community-wide “Holiday Help for the Homeless” drive.
Sponsored by the Staff Advisory Council (S.A.C.), the drive collects basic necessities for needy families and children in the Fredericksburg area through the winter months. Non-perishable food, personal hygiene items and crockpots, which allow displaced families to cook their own meals, are some of the most requested items. A full list of needed items and donation locations can be found here.
After all donations have been collected they will be given to local social workers assigned to area homeless projects so the donations can go where needed the most.
“The number of homeless individuals and displaced families has risen so much in recent years that it becomes increasingly clear that we as members of this community must step up and do something to help,” said Priscilla Sullivan, the activities chair for S.A.C.
Sullivan cites the importance of giving to those who are suffering around us unknown to many community members.
“There are students in classrooms right now from kindergarten to high school that are not living in a home – that don’t have the most basic of necessities – and no one around them even knows,” said Sullivan.
Sullivan hopes the drive becomes an annual event.
“I’d like to see UMW become a center of giving and caring for its surrounding area – a place that our community can count on to rise to the challenge of providing help and hope,” she said.
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News release prepared by: Julia Davis