UC Merced Connect: Faculty, staff and students get in the spirit of giving

While UC Merced’s campus community is busy preparing for the end of the semester and calendar year, many faculty and staff members and students take on other important projects: Helping others in need.

A number of campus departments, student organizations and individuals are doing their parts to help make the holidays special for area families and children.

This year, the Office of Student Life – Civic Leadership (OSL), the Office of the Chancellor, the Staff Assembly and several student groups are collaborating in support of All Dads Matter, a program of the Merced County Human Services Agency that provides resources, encouragement and support to fathers and families.

With help from student groups including the Latino Associated Students and the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, OSL is conducting an Adopt-A-Family outreach project. OSL Associate Director Vernette Doty said the goal is to assist 25 families by helping them meet some basic needs.

“For these families who are having a hard time providing those needs, there’s more stress and anguish around the holidays,” Doty said. “With the Adopt-A-Family outreach, we have an opportunity to alleviate some of that.”

The Adopt-A-Family campaign concludes today.

While the Adopt-a-Family effort aims to help families with necessities, the goal of the Chancellor’s Holiday Toy Drive is to collect donations of new, unwrapped toys to give to children. The toy drive, in collaboration with Staff Assembly, takes place today.

Meanwhile, eight campus fraternities and sororities are collecting donations to benefit Toys for Tots. Undergraduate student Daniel Flores and others have spent the week collecting toys and donations. The goal, Flores said, is to collect $200 and enough toys to fill seven Toys for Tots boxes.

“This is a way for us to give back to the Merced community,” Flores said.

He has a special affinity for the Toys for Tots program: As a child, he once benefited from a holiday toy drive. Flores spent three years in foster care and remembers getting a bicycle during the holidays when he was 8 or 9 years old. He said that act of kindness left a lasting impression and made him eager to pass that feeling on to others.

Two other student groups, Alpha Phi Omega and Alpha Kappa Psi, organized a book drive to benefit the Merced County Library’s children’s literacy program, said undergraduate student Kaylyn Nicolas.

“We hope to collect about 200 books,” she said. “We wanted to do a book drive because as college students, we’ve accumulated a lot of books over the years, and we want to give back this holiday season.”

People involved in these and other giving efforts demonstrate a common sentiment: wanting to support the greater Merced community. “Everyone is excited and passionate about giving back,” Doty said, “and we’re supporting children and families with all of this outreach.”