In parade-like fashion, Dolly Hale’s first grader class from Tacoma’s Elmhurst Elementary School marched across the pavement. Each purposefully carried the toy they had purchased with their parents to the waiting car.
The toys were donated to PLU’s East Campus holiday event, which serves 300 needy families living in the area. The huge outpouring of support from PLU and community organizations – like those elementary school students – made this year’s event extremely successful, said Ruth Kohler, director of the Wellness Center.
More than 350 children received toys donated by PLU faculty and staff and community organizations, far exceeding Kohler’s initial goal. She’d only dared to hope to collect a toy for each of the 160 preschoolers in the Head Start program. After the party, 75 toys were left and donated to the United Way.
“The response we got this year was just incredible,” Kohler said. “A lot of different people stepped up to the plate big time.”
East Campus’ annual holiday party was revamped this year. In the past, only about 25 percent of the families were touched by the traditional holiday workshop, which allowed parents and children to pick out gifts for all members of their family.
The children in the Head Start program were left out because a parent needed to be present at the workshop. This year, signed parental permission slips allowed the Head Start children to participate in the Dec. 17th holiday party, complete with time on Santa’s lap.
Along with the hundreds of donated toys, community organizations also provided baskets filled with essential items to 45 needy families. The baskets were each valued at $100 or more.
The baskets were filled with everyday needs such as towels, washclothes, shampoo, soap, laundry detergent, toilet paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs and brushes, diapers, cooking utensils and a $25 gift card to a local grocery store. They also included Farrelli’s Wood Fire Pizza gift certificates and toys for each child in the family.
The organizations with clients served by the event include Head Start, MOM’s and Women’s Recovery, Parkland Family Support and Wellness Clinic.
Kohler said the event wouldn’t have been a success without help from:
- PLU faculty and staff, who provided half the toys
- The Rotary Club, whose monetary contribution purchased baskets
- Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce’s donations of baskets and toys
- Franklin Pierce School District’s donation of toys
- The first grade class at Elmhurst Elementary School giving of toys
- Cynthia Hickok and her entire neighborhood, who created and donated a number of baskets
- Lindsey Fleischer and PLU SoN students for providing toys
- Trinity Lutheran Church, which gave items for the baskets
- Teachers and church members for private monetary
- Volunteers who helped decorate East Campus, wrap the toys and acted as Santa’s helpers at the event
“This year more than last year we had so much more outside participation,” Kohler said.
University Communications staff writer Megan Haley compiled this report. Comments, questions, ideas? Please contact her at ext. 8691 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Photo provided by East Campus.