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Monday, July 15, 2019

WCC Makes the Season Brighter for Struggling Families

  • Financial Services staff members wrap gifts that they will give to needy families this holiday season.

Each year the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays raise awareness of the financial struggles that many families face. This year, WCC students and staff are continuing their time-honored tradition of making the holidays better for families in Washtenaw County and for soldiers a long way from home.

For over 20 years WCC’s Financial Services division, which includes accounting, purchasing, budget, and finance operations, has made the holidays a little brighter for deserving families. This Thanksgiving it sponsored three WCC students with families who were identified by the Student Resource and Women’s Center, and it will help two more families with gifts and food for Christmas.

“We sincerely hope that our help makes someone’s day a little brighter and secure in knowing that people are there to help them succeed inside and outside of the classroom,” said Eyana Tooson, who is helping coordinate the effort with her Financial Services colleagues.

Twenty more student families received turkey with all the fixings this Thanksgiving from the SRWC, which provides counseling and referral services to struggling students. This year, it was aided by a food drive conducted through WCC’s Bailey Library. Eleven boxes of non-perishable items were collected in November as part of the library’s “Food for Fines” amnesty program. Each item brought in canceled up to $7 in overdue charges.

For 10 years students in the School of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management have prepared a robust pre-Thanksgiving community dinner for 100 people, spearheaded by Tyrone Bridges of Ypsilanti and made possible by generous donations. This year, they cooked and sliced ham, chicken, turkey, and skirt steak, and prepared dressings and sauces to go with them for the Nov. 19 event. Members of WCC’s African American Student Association served the guests.

“It’s a community service project started many years ago by (the late) Don Garrett,” said Chef Paul McPherson. “Don was a strong believer in giving back to the community. We’re honored to continue the tradition.”

The Corner Health Center in Ypsilanti provides many WCC students and community residents with low cost medical care and support services. That is one reason why staff in two WCC departments—Counseling, Career Planning & Employment Services and Student Development & Activities—came together to sponsor a baby shower for the young families it serves.

“We hope to contribute larger items such as a playpen and crib and highchair, and are accepting financial donations through the second week of December,” said Edwina Jarrett, a member of the counseling department who is coordinating the project on campus. “But we’re also accepting brand new baby items for the Corner Store, which serves young mothers and mothers-to-be.”

Clothing items are the focus of a collaborative effort by Phi Theta Kappa, Student Development & Activities, and the Human Services Club this holiday season. They are working on a clothing drive to benefit the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County. Plans are to select unique items for a vintage clothing sale Dec. 9 and 10 to help promote the project, during which payment of non-perishable food items will be accepted along with cash donations.

PTK officer David Bean, an Army veteran of two major deployments, knows firsthand how difficult the holidays can be for military personnel. “Mail is one of the biggest morale boosters for soldiers overseas,” he said. “We look forward to it every day.” He has invited WCC students and staff to sign greeting cards he bought for the TF 1-108 Cav Army battalion stationed in Afghanistan. “We also accepted donations for the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps disabled vets. I strongly encourage people to let our troops know they’re not forgotten. They can get the name of a soldier to write to at AnySoldier.com.”

Remembering hospitalized veterans is a Christmas Eve tradition for Debi Freeman, a caregiver at WCC’s Children’s Center. For close to 25 years, Freeman has collected donations from friends and College staff to provide a warm holiday meal and special gifts to ill and recovering vets and their care providers at the Ann Arbor VA Hospital Nursing Home Care Unit. She will return again this December along with several helpers.

Departments across campus also are adopting a total of 17 families for Christmas. “We identified them from the students we served this year,” said Liz Orbits, who manages the SRWC. “We asked them to fill out a list with clothing sizes and gifts they need, which we turned over to participating departments. They shop and then exchange the gifts with the families they’ve sponsored. It’s very successful and very meaningful for everyone involved. We work with a lot of struggling single moms, and the need this year is greater than ever.”

“Charity begins at home,” said Crystal Sims, who works in Information Technology Services, one of the departments that’s sponsoring a family. “This spring we put a candy box on the counter and raised over $250; a little bit over time really adds up,” she said. “It went into a pool for gifts, and more was donated to buy clothes and toys and personal items for the mother and three children we are sponsoring.”

“Classroom and department projects like these take the spirit of giving to a new level,” said Jarrett. “Coming together this way is a really rewarding experience.”

People in need of help this holiday season are encouraged to call the Information and Referral Helpline sponsored by the United Way of Washtenaw County at 734-477-6211.   

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