Students give back during holidays

    To get into the giving spirit of the holiday season, the UCSD community is participating in food drives, toy drives, Adopt-A-Family programs, and a winter wear donation drive to provide warmth to immigrants crossing the San Diego desert.

    The Toy and Food Drive, sponsored by A.S. Volunteer Connection and the UCSD Staff Association, is collecting food for the San Diego Food Bank, and toys for children hospitalized at the UCSD Burn Unit, the Keiser Pediatric Ward and the Children & Adult Psychiatric Services.

    “”This campus-wide tradition is getting bigger and bigger every year,”” said Executive Director of Volunteer Connection Rosalynn Taing. “”Last year, it was so successful the whole Price Center Ballroom was filled with toys.””

    The toy collection effort culminates on Dec. 12 at the annual Holiday Pancake Breakfast, a popular annual event sponsored by the UCSD Staff Association, where the piles of gifts will be on display. After the breakfast, the toys will be taken over to the children by Santa Claus, who spends time in each child’s room while distributing their presents. He also traditionally visits babies in the preemie ward to give them stuffed toys.

    “”Last year, we collected close to 700 toys donated by the whole gamut of donors of the UCSD community, staff and students alike,”” said Chair of the Toy and Food Drive Deborah McManus.

    Suggestions for toys range from infants to teenagers, provided that they are new and unwrapped or in new condition. Collection bins for both toys and food have been put up at locations all over campus, including the A.S. Volunteer Connection Office, UCSD Bookstore’s first floor lobby and EDNA. There will also be bins at the Pancake Breakfast from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. at Price Center Ballroom.

    The Winter Wear Donation Drive is being conducted for the first time this year by the UCSD Women’s Center and the Lambda Theta Nu sorority. Coordinators are currently looking for donations of used jackets, sweaters and blankets to go to immigrants crossing the deserts.

    According to the sorority, they are trying to prevent the deaths of hundreds of immigrants who perish in the desert each winter. The sorority is working in coordination with the San Diego-based Water/Winter Stations, which started two years ago by leaving water out in the desert for thirsty immigrants crossing the Mexican border and is now leaving clothes and blankets in the winter. Lambda Theta Nu is a sorority that promotes the advancement of Latinas through various campus activities and community services.

    Rosario Parra, a member of the Lambda Theta Nu sorority, said that the idea came from one of her sorority sisters, who met Enrique Morones, president of the Water/Winter Stations Project.

    “”My parents came here [to the United States] and sacrificed a lot for me, so it hits close to home,”” Parra said. “”It’s very personal for all of us, so it’s our way of giving back.””

    The Water/Winter Stations Project has been under controversy since its inception, raising criticism from various border patrol groups and community members.

    “”They say we’re aiding people to cross the border, but we believe it’s a humanitarian action,”” Parra said.

    The sorority will be collecting donations at the Women’s Center through Dec. 13.

    The Women’s Center is also conducting a food drive to benefit the Community Resource Center in Encinitas. According to Loren Linscott, program coordinator for the Community Resource Center, the food collected will be distributed to 700 low-income local families on Dec. 13 and Dec. 14.

    Non-perishable food items can be dropped off at the Women’s Center until the end of the quarter.

    Another yearly holiday tradition is the UCSD Umbrella Group’s adoption of a UCSD Medical Center patient-family in need.

    “”We have a tradition of adopting the family with the most children and trying to meet and exceed their holiday wish list,”” said Adopt-A-Family Coordinator Rich Belmontez.

    This year, the adoptive family is a low-income, eight-child family. One of their children has been a cardiomyopathy patient at the UCSD Medical Center. Items on their wish list include a microwave and grocery store gift certificates for the parents, and clothes and toys for their sons and daughters, whose ages range from five months to 16 years. The full wish list can be obtained through the A.S. Council Web site or at the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Office, where donations will be collected through Dec. 9.

    Another Adopt-A-Family program was conducted for Thanksgiving by the A.S. Volunteer Connection, which adopted 55 families this year through donations by individuals and student organizations on campus. According to Taing, most of these people will continue to adopt their family for Christmas, and the Connection is still encouraging anyone to contact their office to adopt a new family for this holiday season.

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