Marist gives back for the holidays

Every year, letters and cards pour in from underprivileged children expressing their thanks to Campus Ministry for its generosity in hosting the giving trees on Marist’s campus. The children are so grateful to everyone who participates in the giving tree event that many of the letters and cards read: “It was the best Christmas I’ve ever had.”

“When the giving trees go up, people [on campus] get excited that it’s Christmas time,” Brother Francis Kelley, director of Campus Ministry, said. “They realize it is a time to be generous, how blessed we are and that we should give to people who are not as blessed.”

This year, Campus Ministry is working with six different social services agencies in the community to help out 30 families in need. The wish lists of these families are separated onto ornaments hung on the eight trees around campus which are located in the main academic buildings as well as the Cabaret, Champagnat Breezeway and Jazzman’s CafĂ©.

“Students most enjoy taking [ornaments] for little kids,” Kelley said. “This leaves staff and faculty to help with gifts for others.”

The trees have been up since Nov. 13, and Kelley said that all of the unclaimed ornaments have now been stripped from the trees and taken to Byrne House. From there, email notifications are being sent out to faculty and administrators informing them of the gifts that are left in hopes that people will be generous enough to purchase them for the families.

The Marist College Cheerleaders and dance team are planning to unite and purchase one of the unclaimed gifts to offer Campus Ministry for the giving tree event.

“If we unite and conquer, we think we will be able to offer enough money for one of the bigger gifts that no one has taken yet because they are too expensive,” Lauren Strumpf, captain of the cheerleading squad, said. “Although we know any little bit helps, we want to be able to do something big and great for these people.”

Habitat for Humanity also plans on giving a gift to the giving tree to share in the holiday generosity taking place around campus. Molly Crowe, the student in charge of public relations for the club said that it is also participating in a build on Dec. 3 in Newburgh in which its participants will help build a house for those who are less fortunate.

Also in attempt to change the lives of the underprivileged, Teachers of Tomorrow held a book drive for the entire month of November in order to donate to schools in Poughkeepsie.

Teachers of Tomorrow’s main charity event for the holiday season is Macy’s Letters to Santa. For every letter to Santa written either electronically or by hand, Macy’s donates one dollar to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The club had written a dozen letters going into its final meeting of the semester on Nov. 30. Each of the 120 members was encouraged to write a letter before they left this meeting.

“Our club is very involved in the local elementary schools and tries to give back as much as we can,” Katelyn Fornaro, secretary of Teachers of Tomorrow, said. “We listen to the needs of the teachers and try to set up a fundraiser close to the holidays based on that.”

Marist College Dance Ensemble fundraised for charity as well during their rehearsal week before their semiannual show, and collected brand new, unused stuffed animals for the children of St Francis Hospital.

Ariana Cesa, president of MCDE said, “These are children who are really sick. The stuffed animals will go to them to try and cheer them up during these difficult times that they are facing during the holiday season.”

The club was able to collect 88 stuffed animals from its 250 members and held another collection at the doors of the show. If an audience member brought in a stuffed animal for the fundraiser, he/she received a ticket at the pre-sale price.

Another club that is giving back for the holiday season is the Marist College Singers. Every year Singers participates in Operation Christmas Child, in which members are asked to fill shoeboxes with gifts and toiletries for children in need.

“We ask students to fill the boxes with non-violent toys and stuffed animals as well as necessities like toothbrushes, hairbrushes, washcloths, school supplies, basic things that the kids may have never owned,” Grace Andruszkiewics, president of Singers, said. “It is a really wonderful program.”

Singers takes the completed shoeboxes to a drop-off location, and the churches take care of the rest.

In affiliation, the singing group known as the Sirens, a female a cappella group, performed for River Haven, a youth shelter for kids ages 10-17, on Nov. 30. Annie Frenzel, a senior on the Sirens, interns for this shelter and asked the group if they’d be interest in singing for the kids. Andruszkiewics said that the shelter houses kids who go there voluntarily when they need a safe place to be.

“For us, music is a gift that we are privileged to share with others,” Andruszkiewics said. “Especially during the holiday season, it is so important to give back to the community and we feel that these kids could use some Christmas spirit!”

Melissa Stivale

Melissa Stivale is a senior Advertising/Journalism major with a Psychology minor at Marist College. She is the captain of the Marist College Dance Team and teaches dance at a small studio in Rhinebeck. Melissa is from New Jersey, but hopes to travel and become an author of best-selling novels, as well as open her own dance studio.

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