Stu Schaff, a senior in finance, and Sara Gibbs, a sophomore in international studies, sort the toys collected by the Office of Volunteer Programs during its third annual toy drive. Students, and faculty and staff members donated 525 toys for distribution to children in the Champaign-Urbana area, surpassing OVP's goal by 25 toys. Next year, OVP's goal is to collect 600 toys.
Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
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Hundreds of people may feel like Santa Claus received their letters this Christmas, thanks to the generosity of UI faculty and staff members.
Staff members in the Facilities and Services Division and the Office of Volunteer Programs are collecting toys for children in the Champaign-Urbana area. F&S, on behalf of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots campaign, hopes to collect a mound of toys so big it could fill a cargo truck.
Staff members and students in the Office of Volunteer Programs, which collected more than 400 toys last year, collected more than 500 toys this year for distribution to 11 local organizations, including Cunningham Children’s Home and the Center for Women in Transition. In lieu of an office gift exchange, staff members in the office of Student Development, Programs and Activities decided to donate toys that they wished they had received when they were children.
“I’ve been impressed with the response we got from all the student organizations and the campus in general,” said Sara Gibbs, a sophomore majoring in international studies who works in OVP. “I think it’s one of the charity drives that people have a lot of fun doing. People like to shop for toys and get kind of excited about it. It’s been fun to work with.”
Delta Sigma Omicron, the service fraternity for students and alumni with disabilities, continued its tradition of a toy drive and its annual holiday party. The party, held Dec. 10 at Leonhard Recreation Center in Champaign, treated more than 200 children and youth with disabilities to an afternoon of games, crafts and visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus. The toy drive and party were sponsored by the Greater Champaign County AMBUCS, the local chapter of the national service organization that promotes independence and mobility for people with disabilities; WCCF-FM (92.5); WICD-TV; and C-U Special Recreation. Since its inception in 2001, the toy drive has collected more than 4,000 toys and other items for area children.
The Business College Academic Professionals, an organization for the 85 academic professionals who work in that college, collected clothing and personal care items for people at the TIMES Center homeless shelter in Champaign and for families living in Champaign, Urbana and Rantoul who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Mary Sproat, a secretary for the Master of Business Administration program, said that BCAP initially planned to help just one family, but the outpouring of donations was so great that four additional families benefited from the largesse, which included gifts of appliances, furniture and other household items.
“People were very, very generous,” said Jo Duchene, BCAP’s chair and assistant dean of undergraduate affairs in the College of Business. “I think everyone was touched by what happened. Most people felt that in their own small way they were helping make a difference for someone.”
Thanks to staff members at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, some families in Central Illinois will receive perhaps the most precious gift of all – time with loved ones who are military personnel deployed to Iraq. Nancy Komlanc, coordinator of education and training for the DuPage Technology Research, Education and Commercialization Center, a program administered by NCSA, is coordinating videoconferences between Central Illinois residents and family members in the military with the help of the Freedom Calls Foundation, a nonprofit agency that provides free telephone, video-conferencing and Internet services for active-duty military personnel and their families.
Up to 120 families will have private, 30-minute videoconferences with loved ones in Iraq on Dec. 20 or 21. Freedom Calls will contact the soldiers, and if they are near one of the three military bases it services in Iraq – Camp Taji/Camp Cooke, Camp Fallujah or Camp al Asad – will schedule the videoconferences. Komlanc is scheduling the families’ use of NCSA’s videoconference rooms and plans to ask local businesses to donate food and cocoa for the families to enjoy during their visits.
Komlanc said it has been a poignant experience helping people set up their visits.
Help F&S stuff a truck with toys
Facilities and Services is teaming up with the Champaign County Chapter of Toys for Tots to “Stuff a Truck With Toys for Tots.” The goal is to fill a 16-foot cargo truck with new, unwrapped toys. Toys will be collected through Dec. 20.
Toy drop-off locations:
- Physical Plant Services Building, 1501 S. Oak St.
- Printing Services, 52 E. Gregory St.
- Parking, Public Safety Building, 1110 Springfield Ave., Suite 201
- Garage & Car Pool, 1701 S. Oak St.
- Stores, Mail & Receiving, 1609 S. Oak St.