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Holiday Spirit Brings Out the Best in UCR Students


Holiday Spirit Brings Out the Best in UCR Students

Several campus organizations hold drives to collect items for the less fortunate

(December 13, 2011)

Members of Alpha Pi Sigma worked with CASA of Riverside County to collect teddy bears throughout the month of November. The bears will go to children in the foster care system in Riverside County. From left to right, Jacquelyn Torres, Katie Cueva, Daylisi Talavera and Dulce Martinez.Enlarge

Members of Alpha Pi Sigma worked with CASA of Riverside County to collect teddy bears throughout the month of November. The bears will go to children in the foster care system in Riverside County. From left to right, Jacquelyn Torres, Katie Cueva, Daylisi Talavera and Dulce Martinez.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) – With the holidays approaching, Santa Claus and his elves have gotten a little help from some remarkable volunteers in campus organizations at the University of California, Riverside.

Earlier this year, UC Riverside was recognized by Washington Monthly’s 2011 national university rankings as the top school in the country in the category of “service.” The ranking was based on the number of students participating in community service and the total number of service hours performed, both relative to school size.

“The university has over 350 student organizations and our students provide over 10,000 hours of community service and charitable works throughout the year,” said Tonantzin Oseguera, assistant dean of students. “It’s not just during the holiday season.”

But UCR organizations have stepped up in a big way this holiday season. Here are a few examples.

Toys for Tots

Sigma Alpha Lambda honor society partnered with Student Special Services, the UCR Association of Veterans and Service members and other campus departments and organizations in sponsoring a campus-wide Toys for Tots drive. Collection bins were set up across the campus, with members of the U.S. Marine Corps scheduled to pick up the donations on Wednesday, Dec. 14.

Toys will also be collected at the Dec. 14 men’s basketball game vs. UC Santa Cruz at the Student Recreation Center.

SAL President Lu Chen, a senior business major with a concentration in finance and international management, said it is the second year that they have sponsored the program.

“Toys for Tots is a really good charity,” she said. “When I became president, I knew it was something we wanted to continue.”

Toys for Tots was started in 1947 when Marine Corps Reserve Maj. Bill Hendricks collected more than 5,000 toys for children in the Los Angeles area. The program was expanded nationwide the following year. In 2010, more than 16.7 million toys were distributed to nearly 7.2 million children nationwide.

Chen said her goal is to have 200 toys donated by the UC Riverside community, and that the toys are scheduled to be distributed at Riverside’s Cesar Chavez Center.

Chen was grateful for the many departments on campus that assisted in the Toys for Tots campaign, and she hopes to see the program continue to grow in the years to come.

Toys may be dropped off at Student Special Services in Costo Hall 125, the HUB Lobby Card Office, the Student Life Office (HUB 228), the SoBA Business Office (Olmstead 2340), the Honors Office (Olmstead 2316) and the first-floor lobby of Hinderaker Hall.

Teddy Bears for Foster Care Kids

The Alpha Pi Sigma sorority teamed up with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Riverside County to collect teddy bears for kids in the foster care system. Every Wednesday throughout the month of November, sorority members could be found near the Bell Tower, collecting bears of all shapes and sizes.

“This is a new project for us,” said Katie Cueva, a fourth-year psychology and women’s studies major. “CASA is something that we wanted to get more involved with.”

CASA recruits, trains and supports community volunteers who assist the courts in representing the best interests of abused and neglected children in the courtroom and other settings, including helping them find safe and permanent homes.

“When we heard about CASA, we were really interested in it because one of our purposes is to give back to the Latino community,” Cueva said. “We thought it would be a great opportunity for us to collect an item that is easy for anyone to bring, and also for us to give back to the community at large.”

In all, the drive collected 313 bears, well in excess of the goal of 200. Omega Zeta Chi, a community service sorority, was awarded a trophy as the organization that donated the most bears.

“It’s a great feeling to be able to give something to children who are in need,” junior anthropology major Daylisi Talavera said. “A present during the holidays, a teddy bear, might make a big difference to someone who does not have many things.”

Feeding the Hungry

Spurred by a friendly competition between four teams made up of UCR fraternities and sororities, the Intra-Fraternity Council’s three-day canned food and toy drive in late November collected more than 400 cans of food as well as toys for the Salvation Army.

“It was the first time that we have done anything like this and we were really happy with how the event turned out,” said Bob Dawson, IFC president and a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity.

“The food and the toys that we raised are going to help families in the Inland Empire this holiday season,” the senior psychology major added. “The event was able to bring the whole community together and really make a difference.”

The IFC also made a $200 donation to Second Harvest Food Bank in honor of the team that raised the most cans. That team consisted of Pi Kappa Alpha, Delta Tau Delta, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Alpha Phi Alpha, Sigma Omicron Pi, Sigma Lambda Beta, Lambda Theta Alpha, Gamma Rho Lambda, and Zeta Phi Rho.

Dawson said that the IFC plans to make the canned food drive an annual event.

Creating Boxes of Memories

The College Panhellenic Association (CPA), made up of UCR’s six sororities, kicked off the holiday season in early November as students packed and wrapped around 150 gift boxes for needy children as part of Operation Christmas Child. The nationwide program is sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian relief organization.

“We had Christmas cookies and coffee, and we all sat together and listened to Christmas music and packed and wrapped these boxes together,” said Grace Castruita, a member of Delta Gamma sorority and director of scholarship and philanthropy for the CPA. “It was a kick-off to the holiday season.”

Castruita got a donation of shoeboxes from Ross clothing stores, and sorority members filled the gift boxes with a variety of items including toys, school supplies, hygiene items such as toothbrushes and toothpaste, hard candy and gum, and clothing, caps and sunglasses. Each box is specialized for a boy or a girl between the ages of 2-4, 5-9 and 10-14.

Each woman wrote a check for $7 to cover the cost of shipping the item, and some included personal messages and photos. Castruita estimated that 120 sorority members packed at least one box.

“I thought it would be something fun to do, something generous and in the Christmas spirit,” she said. “It allowed us to have a night to meet up and work together.”
Members of UCR sororities participate in the creation of gift boxes as part of Operation Christmas Child. The boxes will be shipped throughout the world. (Photo courtesy of Grace Castruita.)Enlarge

Members of UCR sororities participate in the creation of gift boxes as part of Operation Christmas Child. The boxes will be shipped throughout the world. (Photo courtesy of Grace Castruita.)

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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