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December 8, 2003

Campus community pitching in to help

By Louise Donahue

Signs of the season are unmistakable around campus: Toys for Kids collections are under way at the Fire Station, people in need are being “adopted” for the holidays by faculty and staff, and canned goods are filling up Second Harvest bins.

How you can help:

Adopt-a-family program through the Volunteer Center

Second Harvest Food Bank

Grandma Sue's

Valley United Churches

Photo of Troy Souza

Troy Souza, above, is coordinating the Toys for Kids drive at the Fire Station. Pat Sanders, below, is helping distribute "angel cards" with gift requests at Merrill Faculty Services. Photos: Louise Donahue
Photo of Pat Sanders

Among the many helping out are Merrill College faculty and staff members who help migrant families through the Christmas Project.

The requests run from the typical—CD players and gift certificates—to the heartbreaking, according to Merrill Faculty Services assistant Pat Sanders. “One kid just wanted ‘a gift.’ That’s all,” she said. One adult requested a blanket. “It’s heart-wrenching,” said Sanders. “It makes you feel good about giving and grateful for what you have.”

Sanders said coordinating the drive at Merrill hasn’t been difficult. “The Merrill faculty and staff are always eager to help out,” she said.

While Merrill College and other units help out with the Christmas Project, that program is far from the only opportunity to play Santa’s helper.

Campus police are buying gifts for a single-parent family in need arranged through Family Student Housing.

“We all enjoy doing it,” said Sisi Belcher, an administrative assistant. “It’s a real warm and fuzzy feeling.”

Police Department employees are picking out toys and clothes for the children and filling requests from the parent. Once the gifts have been selected, officers will present them to the family. The police are also participating in the Fire Department’s Toys for Kids drive.

Toys for Kids is a tradition with the UCSC Fire Department, said coordinator Troy Souza, a fire engineer. Souza said the campus filled seven or eight large bins of toys last year. The drive is done in conjunction with the Santa Cruz Fire Department.

Unwrapped toys may be dropped off at the Fire Station or firefighters will pick them up, Souza said. Often, people holding campus holiday parties will have everyone contribute a toy for the drive rather than exchange gifts. “The generosity is just overwhelming,” said Souza, who has been coordinating contributions at the Fire Station for several years. “The people in the campus community have been wonderful.”

Staff members at the Physical Plant are busy with both Second Harvest and the Santa Cruz Volunteer Center’s Adopt A Family project. Rachel Huff, assistant to the senior superintendent, said the Physical Plant always fills two bins for Second Harvest, and is selecting gifts for a four-member family. “All they asked for were shoes and sweatpants—things like that. They’re not asking for Game Boys or X-boxes.”

Huff said Physical Plant has been helping families for years. “What’s amazing to me is that those who have the least, help the most. Physical Plant is just an amazing group.”

UCSC students gave the Second Harvest Food Bank a big boost before hitting the books for finals, raising $5,242 in the Second Harvest Hunger Fast. In what has become a campus tradition, students donated their dining hall meals on November 21, directing the amount that would have been spent on their meals to the Food Bank. Danny Ambrose and Charlene Lo, coordinators of the Student Volunteer Connection and members of the Second Harvest committee, organized the Hunger Fast. “They did a wonderful job,” said Alina Tejera, assistant to John Holloway, executive director of Student Life. Last year’s total was $4,423.

Not counting the Hunger Fast tally, cash and checks contributed as of December 3 to Second Harvest totaled $4,814, according to Manuel Grijalva, Mail Services manager and one of the campus campaign’s organizers. Because Second Harvest is able to buy in bulk, the $4,814 total is the equivalent of 7.2 tons of food, Grijalva said. Looked at another way, for every dollar donated by UCSC, Second Harvest can purchase and distribute $9 worth of food.

Grijalva said organizers hope to double the December 3 total by the time the drive ends on December 17. Donated food will be packed into a Metro bus near the main campus entrance on December 17 at 2 p.m., weather permitting.

Second Harvest is supported by the Academic Senate, the Staff Advisory Board, and students. “It’s a total community effort,” Grijalva noted.

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