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Gift Drive Brightens Holidays

Individuals and groups at Northwestern donate gifts to those in need

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December 18, 2009 | by Judy Moore
Despite the flagging economy, the Chicago campus response to the Feinberg Staff Relations Committee and Northwestern Staff Advisory Council invitation to take part in the 2009 holiday gift drive, was greater than last year.
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Santa had a lot of helpers at Northwestern University this December. The holiday spirit prompted generous individual staff and faculty members, departments, programs and groups to "adopt" a child, adult or family in need in this year's "Give the Gift of Giving for the Holidays" drive. One enthusiastic Evanston employee even volunteered to don a fur-trimmed red suit and portray Santa.

Despite the flagging economy, the Chicago campus response to the Feinberg Staff Relations Committee (FSRC) and Northwestern Staff Advisory Council (NUSAC) invitation to take part in the 2009 holiday gift drive, was greater than last year.

Thirteen departments on the Chicago campus and 66 individual staff members sponsored 43 Project Angel Tree children and 33 Grant A Wish Inc. children. In addition, Northwestern Chicago staff sponsored 42 adults from Inspiration Corporation with gift cards to Walgreens, Target, CVS Pharmacy, Dominick's and Jewel-Osco. They also collaborated with the Feinberg Staff Relations Committee in recruiting staff and faculty to sponsor 12 families representing more than 60 individuals from the Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights.

The 79 responses to the drive on the Evanston campus came from 22 departments, programs or units and 57 individuals. Gifts from the Evanston campus were donated to Family Focus, Our Place and the Rice Child + Family Center, both Evanston organizations. On the Chicago campus, those who bought and wrapped holiday gifts for a child affiliated with Project Angel Tree, a program that helps imprisoned parents connect with their children through the delivery of holiday gifts, were asked to give two gifts per child, one clothing item and one "fun" gift. The Institute for Healthcare Studies, Feinberg School of Medicine, supports NUSAC's effort in organizing the Angel Tree endeavor.

Gifts cards worth $20 directed to the non-profit Inspiration Corporation will help some of Chicago's homeless and needy adults.

The Heartland Alliance For Human Needs & Human Rights provides support services to the people who face the holiday season with little or no resources.

 "We had such a great response on the Chicago campus to Project Angel Tree that we ended up also donating to Grant A Wish Inc., an organization that grants wishes to needy, handicapped and abused children throughout Chicago," said Laura B. Amsden, research associate, Institute for Healthcare Studies.

In Evanston, Family Focus, Our Place, a family support program, requested that holiday gifts be donated for each member of a family. Donors purchased and labeled one "wish" gift and one clothing item for each family member. The Rice Child + Family Center, part of Children's Home and Aid, provides intensive services to children who have experienced or witnessed violence and abuse.

Forty-one departments and/or groups on the Evanston campus adopted a family, and 22 individual staff members sponsored a family on their own, making this holiday a joyous one for 47 families.

"The Evanston campus was able to match all of our families and not one family was missed," said Dauphine Gregory, office manager at the Kellogg School of Management. "Some employees also just brought various gifts, wrapped them and dropped them off at Family Focus to be distributed to anyone in need."

This year, the Rice Center asked volunteers to purchase a pair of slippers and a bathrobe for its young residents. Not only did they receive these gifts, an outside donor donated book bags for the gifts to be delivered in, as well as puzzles. Children at the Rice Center will receive their gifts on Christmas morning.

In Chicago, the gift cards donated to Inspiration Corporation were delivered in time for the group's Dec. 10 holiday party. Project Angel Tree gifts will be distributed during a Dec. 19 holiday party. Gifts to the Grant A Wish Inc. Chicago program will be passed out during a holiday party. Heartland Alliance gifts will be received on Dec. 21.

"The Evanston campus matched all 46 Rice Foundation children almost immediately," said Natasha Dennison, program assistant, American Studies and Science in Human Culture programs, and the drive's co-chair. "The NUSAC drive is an effort to keep the spirit of giving alive. The fact that we are in a recession and folks are still willing to sponsor is truly a blessing to those in need."