UCSC community again embracing holiday opportunities to give

After yet another year marked by national economic hardship, members of the UCSC community once again pooled their resources to support a number of holiday giving drives directed at providing food, gifts, and basic necessities to the children and families in Santa Cruz who need help the most this holiday season.

Second Harvest Food Bank

Across the campus, faculty, staff, and students have been stepping up to make contributions of canned food and cash to the Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County's Holiday Food Drive. Campus organizers at the Staff Advisory Board expressed optimism about meeting this year's 55,000-pound goal—a 10 percent increase over 2010's record-breaking haul—with four full barrels having already been collected. Last year, UCSC was the county's 5th largest contributor to the countywide holiday drive.

The iconic green donation barrels found throughout the campus were accompanied this year by stacks of white envelopes for submitting monetary donations to the drive. Thanks to special discounts from food suppliers, Second Harvest can provide $8 worth of food to needy families for every $1 donated. So far, the campus has raised $5,000 from mail-in donations and more than $1,000 from online contributions. Students have also provided more than $1,000 to the cause through donations of unused Flexi Dollars and meal credits.

Events in support of the drive included fundraising tables at the December 4 Friends Holiday Party downtown and the December 8 staff holiday gathering. 

The Jack Baskin School of Engineering also held its own separate drive for Second Harvest, organized by staff member Lynne Sheehan, which included a December 16 silent auction featuring a number of handmade items donated by staff members.

Second Harvest's overall goal this year is to secure 2.5 million pounds of food countywide. Donations to the drive can be made here.

Toys for Tots

In today's tough economic climate, more and more families are finding it impossible to afford much-anticipated holiday gifts for their children; and with a record 15 million American kids currently living in poverty, the need for compassion seems more acute than ever. With this in mind, the UCSC Fire Department has committed itself once again to provide brand-new toys to children who would otherwise go without this holiday season, beginning with families living right here on campus. 

The Toys for Tots drive is an annual tradition at the Fire Department, which placed donation bins around campus this year to collect toy donations from the community. Firefighter Kyle Emmert, who coordinated this year's drive, said the department anticipates it will collect between four and five barrels full of toys this year. 

After collection, the toys will be distributed among 17 families with young children living in UCSC's Family Student Housing. Any remaining toys will go to other low-income families throughout Santa Cruz County. 

This year's drive featured a special fundraising event at Woodstock's Pizza in downtown Santa Cruz, where the Fire Department teamed up with the Slug Squad, the student promotional group for UCSC's Athletics Department, to collect toys for the drive and promote general fire safety.

Giving Tree

The Student Volunteer Center (SVC), a student-run and -funded organization, once again coordinated the Giving Tree holiday gift drive this year. The center teamed up with the Walnut Avenue Women's Center and the Jesus Mary & Joseph Home to collect warm clothes, toys, and other much-needed items for 70 needy families this holiday season.

The most common items on Giving Tree wish lists are basic necessities, according to William E. Brotherson, a junior at UCSC and the SVC's programs director. 
"They're asking for things like jackets," he said. "One kid asked for a mop."

Unless the community steps in, said Brotherson, many of these kids "won't get anything."

Community members may have noticed the personalized ornaments that the SVC hung up on small trees in offices around campus. Each ornament was inscribed with a wish list of three or four personal or household items, along with the first name of the intended recipient. Community members were invited to participate in the drive by selecting an ornament and purchasing some or all of the items listed on it. The gifts were then collected by the SVC on December 7 and delivered to their respective families.

The SVC had anticipated a large drop-off in the number of gifts it would receive for the program this year, but by the end of the drive the community had donated far more than expected despite the difficult economy.

The SVC also played an active role in helping to collect Flexi Dollars and meal credits for the Second Harvest Food Bank's Holiday Food Drive.