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Helping for the Holidays

University Community Gives Back

Tales for Tots
Students from Sigma Tau Delta collected several hundred books for young readers in need.

By Julia Gavin

Students, faculty and staff at UMass Lowell once again gave back to the community this holiday season. Dozens of drives, events and celebrations have been organized to help others celebrate the season while encouraging volunteers to appreciate their own blessings. While efforts have helped people and organizations of all types, here are just a few of the extraordinary actions this season:

Thanksgiving Drive and “Polar Express”

The Third Annual UMass Lowell Thanksgiving Drive and Distribution, in partnership with Merrimack Valley Catholic Charities, brought in enough food to feed more than 375 families. More than 152 volunteers worked together to collect and sort food, distribute it to families and support people in need.

A few days before the holiday, ARAMARK and dining services staff members helped local families celebrate Thanksgiving by cooking donated food for the Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley’s (ESMV) “Polar Express” event. After a trolley tour with the Lowell National Historic Park, 40 local elders and their families had a turkey dinner, cooked in part by the University’s staff.

“We were ecstatic that the University and ARAMARK could help us by cooking the 100 pounds of donated turkey,” says Bob Pacl, who connected ESMV with the University. “Having professionals cook all of the turkey in one place was much easier than finding many places to use. The dessert trays were a hit as well.”

Veteran Care Packages

Members of the Student Veterans Organization gathered and shipped supplies for 70 care packages for soldiers stationed in Afghanistan during the holidays. With help from the veterans’ services office, Omicron Delta Kappa, the student government association and volunteer faculty, the students sent items not readily available to soldiers, including snacks, batteries, toiletries and music.

Tales for Tots

For the past several years, the English honor society, Sigma Tau Delta, has collected new or gently used children’s books to donate to local kids. This year, the students collected 14 boxes of books, totaling several hundred books for children at the Children’s Corner. The students said that leafing through the books before donating them is their favorite part of the drive, since they see many old favorites going to new readers.

Rock for Tots

Presented by WUML and the ASAO, the annual Rock for Tots concert brought in more than $500 for the local charity, The Wish Project. Students and music-lovers from the area came out to hear The Deans List, Urban Nerdz and SH and the Sitting Ducks during a night of hip hop and community support. The concert helped raise money for the charity, which will purchase gifts for local children in need.

See related story on students in the Graduate School of Education who have been raising money and collecting items for the House of Hope, a family shelter in Lowell.