OGDEN, Utah – For Devin Pugh, a first-semester freshman at Weber State University, helping others is something he has to do.
A native of Tulsa, Okla., Pugh remembers growing up the youngest of four children being raised by his mom, a single parent.
“We always struggled throughout the year,” Pugh said. “But at Christmastime, someone always would step in and help us out. At the time of most need we were given the most help.”
The kindness anonymous donors showed to Pugh and his family at the holidays led him to WSU’s Women’s Center. During the holiday season, the Women’s Center coordinates a Sub for Santa program to assist students who are single parents and having trouble making ends meet for the holidays.
“Typically departments and organizations on campus work to sponsor and assist our Sub for Santa recipients,” said Carol Merrill, director of the Women’s Center. “To have a student come forward and want to help his fellow students really impressed me.”
Pugh, 18, purchased gifts for his Sub for Santa family and had a chance to present them in person when he met the WSU student he helped, a woman from Russia with two boys.
“It was pretty emotional at first,” Pugh said of the meeting. “We shared stories about our similar experiences. I was that 12-year-old. I was that teenager. My mom was her. I know how they feel.”
Pugh is spending the holidays with his family back in Oklahoma. When he told his mother about his charitable efforts, he learned that his older brother and sisters all have made similar contributions to those in need while attending other universities.
“Mom is proud of us, and I’m proud of her and what she’s accomplished. She drives me,” Pugh said.
In addition to raising four children, Pugh’s mother, Laila Fritz, pursued her education and now works as a consultant for a medical firm.
Next semester Pugh, a walk-on, red-shirt freshman cornerback for the WSU football team, hopes to continue to work with the Women’s Center and get involved with other organizations on campus and in the community.
Pugh downplays what he did. “This isn’t about me. It’s about helping others. God is speaking to me. I couldn’t not do it,” said Pugh, explaining his generosity.
Merrill said the center’s Sub for Santa program received 64 applicants seeking assistance this year, a significant jump from the 31 requests received a year ago. Working in concert with WSU’s Continuing Education and anonymous donors, the Women’s Center has been able to support 26 families and provide gifts to more than 67 individuals this holiday season.
The Women’s Center and its partners have been able to assist a total of 65 families since 2008.
Visit weber.edu/wsutoday for more stories of charitable efforts at Weber State University this holiday season.