LUPD Officer Matt Hyman and friend test drives bikes in the aisles of Wal-Mart.
The spirit of generosity is perhaps most evident through the holiday season, and members of the Lehigh community continue to find ways to give back to the local community and beyond. Beginning a full month before students leave for their winter break, a number of offices and organizations sponsored philanthropic programs aimed at helping others.
Among the most visible is the perennially popular Shop With a Cop program sponsored by the Lehigh University Police Department. Each holiday season, officers from the fully accredited university police force join with their spouses and fellow volunteers to make Christmas brighter for local schoolchildren. Funds raised throughout the year allow the department to provide food baskets for families and to take nearly 30 children each year on a shopping excursion for presents.
This year’s event took place on a snowy Saturday morning in mid-December, when the children and the families departed from Rathbone Hall at 7 a.m. for a trip to Wal-Mart in Lower Nazareth Township. After a whirlwind spree through the toy aisles, the special guests of the LUPD were back on the Lehigh campus to enjoy a breakfast with Santa by mid-morning.
“It’s the best time of the year for all us in the department,” said LUPD Chief Ed Shupp. “We always say, the officers seem to enjoy it as much as the kids do. And it’s a great way to build better relationships with the kids and their families in the community. We want them to see us as partners in building stronger and safer communities, and these efforts go a long way toward that.”
Other philanthropic programs on campus included the following:
- The Office of International Students and Scholars held their 5th annual “International Winter Closet” drive to provide coats, scarves, hats and gloves for international students who came to Lehigh from warmer climates. "We are so grateful and appreciative of the 25 plus faculty and staff members who contributed to the clothing drive," said Amanda Shao, a graduate student in engineering and technical entrepreneurship. "This year, we have provided more than 50 students and families with over 100 pieces of winter clothing. Some people are so excited because it will be their first winter season of their lifetimes. The clothing drive is only possible because of the thoughtful contributions from the generous Lehigh community."
- The annual Community Outreach by Athletes who Care about Helping (C.O.A.C.H.) provided an early holiday celebration for more than 50 families (representing 225 individuals) after raising nearly $30,000 to support the effort. Participants from all of Lehigh’s varsity athletic teams joined with 10 departments within the university and both the Infraternity Council and Panhellenic Council. The event was held at Donegan Elementary in early December, and families were drawn from Donegan, Holy Infancy, Fountain Hill and Broughal Middle School, according to Roseann Corsi, who coordinates the athletics department’s community relations efforts.
- The popular Holiday Hope Chest program was once again organized through the Community Service Office, with more than 180 boxes – nearly twice the amount of previous years -- filled with gifts for local schoolchildren participating in the Homework Clubs. The event, which is coordinated with the Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley, provides gift boxes geared to the specific ages and needs of the children. “Our Lehigh community is so generous,” said Community Service Director Carolina Hernandez, who organizes the event each year. “The kids are always so excited to receive these, and it’s great to be able to build on the positive relationships we have with so many in the local community.”
There's still time to give. The university recently launched its United Way Fund Drive, which funnels contributions from faculty and staff to area agencies that serve those in need. Dale Kochard, assistant vice president of Community and Regional Affairs, says among higher education institutions in the Valley, Lehigh was the greatest contributor.
"Our continuous givers at Lehigh have always been very generous over the years, and we thank them for that support," he said. "This year, we're asking all employees to consider contributing to the campaign. A small contribution can go a long way toward helping others."
More information and details on pledging can be found at http://bethechange.unitedwayglv.org/lehigh-university
.Photos by Vinicius Rodriques Aguiar