Volunteering is the reason for the season at the University of Miami. Students, faculty and alumni are putting on their Santa hats and getting ready to deliver gifts to children and elderly in need.
Holiday Hope Tree (HHT), coordinated by the Butler Center for Leadership and Development, is the longest running toy drive on campus. It serves as the umbrella organization for many other service events such as Toy S.T.O.R.Y. and Be a Santa to a Senior. This year HHT has committed to collect more than 600 gifts for children in the local community. The toy drive is a campus-wide effort involving students, faculty, staff and alumni that commit to donating a new and unwrapped toy for a child. The gifts are collected for children up to age 17.
Holiday Hope Tree will provide gifts to the Salvation Army, South Miami Head Start Program, Community Partnership in the Homeless, Homeinstead Care, UM Pediatrics and Phyllis Wheatley Elementary School. Other student organizations such as the Association of Commuter Students (ACS), Pan-Hellenic Council and S.T.R.I.V.E. are collaborating with Holiday Hope Tree to deliver gifts as well.
“Within reach of our campus walls, we have a community who is in need,” said Andrew Wiemer, director of the Butler Center for Leadership and Development.
The following organizations will be spearheading donations.
S.T.R.I.V.E. (Serving Together Reaching Integrity, Values and Engagement) is a special interest housing group in Eaton Residential College. The student organization decided to take the Be a Santa to a Senior project on, and commit to giving gifts to 50 senior citizens.
They are collecting various necessities for the elderly such as pajamas, bathroom sets, bathrobes, stuffed animals, perfumes and lotions. This branch of Holiday Hope Tree is a nationwide program that takes place every year during the holiday season.
“Be a Santa to a Senior is a group that is usually very underrepresented during the holidays, nobody thinks that they’re going to need gifts or want gifts, but some of these senior citizens have nobody,” said Daniella Orihuela, coordinator of Holiday Hope Tree. “One card from Be a Santa to a Senior may be the only card they get; to them it’s very special.”
Toy S.T.O.R.Y., which stands for service towards our rising youth, is a branch of HHT led by an executive board at the university. These individual students have teamed up to personally deliver toys to Phyllis Wheatley Elementary School located in Overtown. They will be delivering toys to approximately 200 underprivileged children whose families cannot afford Christmas gifts. The UM students participating will be taken on a school bus to Overtown where they will read to children and participate in arts and crafts. Each child will receive a personalized wrapped toy.
Association of Commuter Students
ACS has partnered with Holiday Hope Tree and will be sponsoring the South Miami Head Start organization where they will be hosting a holiday party and delivering gifts to approximately 100 children.
Pan-Hellenic will be sponsoring the Salvation Army and donating toys for 100 children. The Salvation Army will receive these personalized toys for the children sponsored and the parents will personally pick the gifts up to give them to their children on Christmas day.
“These parents usually don’t have the money to provide their children with toys, so it has a very emotional link to it,” Orihuela said.