WSU Captures Holiday Spirit by Helping Those in Need

OGDEN, Utah – Fall semester might be over, but students, faculty and staff at Weber State University have been busy trying to make the holidays a little more merry for some members of our community.
From collecting for area veterans to adopting Sub-for-Santa families to organizing food and toy drives, student groups, offices and departments on campus have spent the month of December trying to make a difference in the lives of others.

The Veterans Upward Bound office held its seventh annual “Shoeboxes for Homeless Veterans” drive this fall. The goal was to collect 100 shoeboxes with toiletries for area veterans. Donna Rigby, director of Veterans Upward Bound, said this year’s response was amazing. They collected 196 shoeboxes, providing items to share with homeless veterans in two Salt Lake City locations in addition to the Homeless Veterans Fellowship in Ogden.

“People have been extremely generous,” said Rigby. “In some cases they filled the shoeboxes and put them in larger containers with other clothing items.”


Members of WSU's IT Division deliver the toys and other
items they
 collected to the local Salvation Army warehouse.

Employees in the Information Technology Division on campus conducted a toy drive for the Salvation Army. The IT employees collected more than 1,000 toys, hats, gloves and clothes—enough to fill two pickup trucks. When they delivered the goodies to the local Salvation Army warehouse, they learned that the WSU toy donation would be used to address 500 unfilled Angel Tree tags that had just been returned to the Salvation Army.

Since October, students and staff in the Honors Program have been gathering food for the Utah Food Bank. On December 5, Honors students held a concert featuring local bands Auto Pirates, Fox Van Cleave and Naked Eyes, and the price of admission was non-perishable food items. The Honors Program gathered more than 300 cans of food to donate.

Each year, the Women’s Center on campus accepts applications from students who are single mothers, requesting holiday assistance. Women’s Center director Carol Merrill said that typically one or two families are selected, but given the tough economic times, this year every student (more than a dozen families) that applied received assistance.

“This is wonderful, amazing and inspiring to know that there are so many people who are willing to do so much for others,” Merrill said. All but one of the families in need were adopted by WSU’s Continuing Education, with the University Advancement Division adopting the other family.


Items collected by WSU's IT Division are displayed
prior to being delivered to the local Salvation Army.

The Community Involvement Center (CIC) sponsored an Angel Tree for the Salvation Army featuring 200 tags with requests and needs. WSU students, faculty and staff helped provide Christmas for 200 children on the Angel Tree.

The CIC Angel Tree was one of three projects Volunteer Involvement Program director Ariana Escalante helped organize this month. Escalante, a senior majoring in musical theater, also coordinated a group of students who helped distribute food at the Ogden Rescue Mission and arranged for the Christmas Tree Bridge in the Shepherd Union Building.

Offices, colleges, academic departments and student organizations adopted a total of 24 trees, which they decorated. The trees were displayed for two weeks on campus, before being donated to needy families in the area. Trees not assigned to a specific family were given to the Your Community Connection (YCC) to place with households in need. The College of Arts & Humanities, Jerry & Vickie Moyes College of Education and the departments of child and family studies, clinical laboratory sciences and dental hygiene were among the academic offices that sponsored a tree.

Not to be outdone, the MBA Alumni Association has been busy spreading good cheer by assisting several local agencies, including the Salvation Army, YCC and Youth Impact. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, the alumni were able to purchase more than $700 in toys for the Salvation Army, a new color copier to assist Youth Impact’s operations, and they are in the process of helping cover the costs for a new linoleum floor in the family and dining area of the YCC shelter that houses domestic abuse survivors.

Perhaps the ultimate reward for all these campus elves is knowing they’ve touched the lives of others in the community. Teresa, one of the Sub-for-Santa recipients who did not want her last name used, summed up what this outreach meant to her and her family who are struggling in the current economy:

“I am so grateful to you for all that you have been doing for my family. My husband and I talked all night about what a Blessing you have been to our lives . . . I just wanted to tell you THANK YOU and you truly warmed mine and my husband’s hearts forever. Just the thought means the world to us.”

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Chris Bentley, Honors program student advisory board
801-791-2054 ·

Ariana Escalante, VIP director
801-726-2170 ·

Carol Merrill, Women’s Center director
801-626-6090 ·

Rosalie Polson, Information Technology office specialist
801-626-8855 ·

Donna Rigby, Veterans Upward Bound director
801-626-7047 ·

Mark Stevenson, MBA enrollment director
801-395-3528 ·

John Kowalewski, director of Media Relations
801-626-7212 •