As it does every year, the Lehigh community has responded generously this holiday season to give food, clothing and toys to those in need.
Special events have included the annual “Shop with a Cop” program organized by the Lehigh Police; the annual canned food drive; volunteer activities of the Community Service Office, including the Holiday Hope Chest program; and the Adopt-a-Family program of Lehigh’s C.O.A.C.H. program.
“I think the Lehigh family is incredibly generous year round,” said Carolina Hernandez, the director of the Office of Community Service. “And we see it and hear about it more during the holiday season. We have incredibly caring students, faculty and staff ... There has never been a time when the Community Service Office has sent out a call to action that we haven't received the volunteer support necessary to meet the community’s needs.”
This year was no different as the Lehigh community responded with extraordinary enthusiasm, according to program organizers.
“Shop with a Cop”
The university’s police force sponsored its seventh annual “Shop with a Lehigh Cop” program on Sunday, Dec. 6, when 14 officers accompanied 32 children from local families on a shopping excursion to the Wal-Mart on Route 248. The families participating in the program were selected by local clergy and schools based on need.
“This is just another way for us to give back to the community,” says Police Chief Edward Shupp, who oversees 22 officers in the state-accredited university police force. “Service and good relations with the local community are essential for the great working relationship we continue to enjoy. We want local youth to see police officers as allies, not adversaries.”
Shupp said that he and his officers were amazed by the response they received from outside agencies. The event began with a Breakfast with Santa, followed by the trip to Wal-Mart. The presents were wrapped by Wal-Mart volunteers. Donations from local businesses also allowed police to distribute food baskets to local families.
“The program this year was one of the largest we’ve ever hosted,” says Shupp. “And part of the reason we could host so many is that our officers showed a great amount of interest in volunteering their time.”
Coats, scarves, hats and an army of volunteers
Faculty, staff and students in the College of Education donated clothing, coats and footwear to families in need, collecting more than 10 bags of clothing for the Sixth Street Shelter of Allentown and contributing five children’s coats to Fountain Hill Elementary School children through the Community Service Office.
The Community Service Office conducted a coat, scarves and hat drive and made holiday hope chests for children in Lehigh’s after-school homework clubs.
“Faculty, staff and students emailed us to express their interest in helping out,” says Hernandez. “We assigned each person a child and each person filled two boxes with presents for their child.”
Karrie Dieser, marketing specialist for Lehigh Dining Services, tapped a similar vein of generosity when she organized her annual canned food drive to benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank.
“Dining Services (Sodexo) looks forward to this event each year, because it allows us to connect with the rest of the campus community,” says Dieser, “and work together for a cause we know will help families here in our own community.”
Sodexo’s efforts resulted in the collection of 1,460 lbs of food for Second Harvest Food Bank. An army of volunteers picked up the food around campus, while Lehigh fraternity and sorority members volunteered to help transport the food to the food bank.
“Overall, it was a wonderful event, and I greatly appreciate everyone in the Lehigh community for getting involved,” says Dieser.
“What the holidays are all about”
Lehigh’s C.O.A.C.H. (Community Outreach by Athletes who Care about Helping) program held its 11th annual Adopt-A-Family event from the Lehigh Hall of Fame in Taylor Gym. Each university athletic team adopted an underprivileged family. The teams raised money to buy holiday presents and presented the gifts to their families at a special event on the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 1. This year, the student-athletes raised nearly $30,000.
“It’s great to be able to give back to the families in the community that support us throughout the year,” says Craig Zurn, a junior on Lehigh’s football team. “It’s always a treat to see the looks on the families’ faces when they receive the presents.”
“I was involved rather closely with the event this year because Robert Tulcin, Isadore Carrie, Shane Ryan and I are the football team’s C.O.A.C.H. representatives. We were involved in a lot of the planning and coordination and to see it all come together is amazing. It’s a great feeling to be a part of this event.”
The teams met with their families as children opened presents. Santa Claus was on hand to spread holiday cheer, along with Clutch, the Lehigh Mountain Hawk, and food and drinks were provided.
“It’s really cool to see the families open their gifts,” says Liz Lucas, a freshman on the Mountain Hawks’ softball team. “It’s very rewarding. We put a lot of time into helping to raise the money, purchasing presents and wrapping them, so it’s great to be able to meet our families.”
“This has been incredible,” says Taylor Castagna ’10 of the men’s lacrosse team. “With all the work that goes into this, to see it culminate on a night like this is just great. This is what the holidays are all about.”