'Tis the season for giving back

Collection drives to help families in need

- November 30, 2012

Helping with Nursing's toy drive (left to right): Shauna Houk, Kathleen MacMillan, Nancy Edgecombe, Megan Wheeler. (Nick Pearce photo)
Helping with Nursing's toy drive (left to right): Shauna Houk, Kathleen MacMillan, Nancy Edgecombe, Megan Wheeler. (Nick Pearce photo)

Along with cooler days, longer nights and neighbourhood houses strung with lights, one of the clearest signs that the holiday season has arrived in the Dal community is the launch of charity initiatives across campus.

Putting their creativity and generosity on display, groups at Dal are finding ways to make the holidays a little more festive for HRM residents in need of a helping hand.

A prime example is in Dal Nursing, where the Rho Rho chapter of Nursing Honor Society Sigma Theta Tau International has banded together with the student-run Dalhousie University Nursing Society (DUNS) for a toy and pyjama drive. The two organizations are also collecting money for Feed Nova Scotia.

Dubbed Rho Rho Christmas Care, the initiative, now in its second year, invites members of the Dal community to purchase an unwrapped toy or a pair of pyjamas for a child. Visitors to the School of Nursing at the Forrest Building will find a tree in the foyer, with star decorations hanging from the branches. On the back of each star, the age and gender of a child is listed — for example, “boy, age 6” — to help donors buy an appropriate toy or pyjama size.

“It’s fun for people because they can turn over the stars and decide if they want a two-year-old or a six-year-old, or a boy or a girl,” says Shauna Houk, vice-president of Rho Rho and assistant director, undergraduate studies, for Nursing.

Helping hands

Megan Wheeler, vice-president of community affairs for DUNS and a third-year Nursing student, says the focus on toys and pyjamas came out of a consultation with the Salvation Army, which will whisk away the donations on December 10.

“We contacted Salvation Army to find out what kind of resources they needed, and we took that into consideration when putting the stars on the Christmas tree,” says Wheeler.

Once they’ve bought a toy or a pair of pyjamas, donors can drop the gift off in a box beside the School of Nursing tree. Donations will be accepted until noon on December 10.

Houk says the goal of the campaign is to spread both cheer and much-needed resources to families in need — not to mention a bit of relaxation in what can be a stressful time for people.

When asked to describe what the initiative means to the Nursing and the broader community, Nancy Edgecombe, president of Rho Rho and co-ordinator of the Arctic Nursing BScN program, points to an incident that occurred last holiday season.

“The tree went missing, and our custodial staff went searching for it,” she says. (It turned out that someone had borrowed it for a party). “That [dedication to searching for the tree] shows that the ownership isn’t just with Nursing. It was almost like it was their tree, too. They were invested in it.

“It brings people together as a community.”

Bus stuffing

Likewise, the team at Dalplex is doing its best to bring community members together in the spirit of holiday generosity. Until December 6, Dalplex is accepting donations of non-perishable food as part of the Stuff-a-bus food drive.

Stuff-a-bus is an initiative of Feed Nova Scotia, Metro Transit and the Amalgamated Transit Union local 508, in partnership with radio station C100. Dalplex is playing its part for the eighth consecutive year, and on December 7, Dalplex employees will help to literally stuff a Metro Transit bus with the donated food.

This season, Dalplex has set a target of 1,000 pounds of food, and to encourage donations, it’s offering to pay the HST on any memberships purchased or renewed by donors who bring in six or more food items during the Stuff-a-bus period.

Amanda Lindsay, manager of recreation marketing and communications for Dalplex, says Stuff-a-bus has become a proud tradition.

“People look forward to it and members of the community ask about it — ‘When does it start? When are you collecting food? When can I bring stuff in?’ — and especially now that we’ve set a target and a goal, we can build a little bit of buzz and excitement to reach that goal.”

The campaign also allows Dalplex to get the message out about those less fortunate. Erin Rowe (pictured), a Dalplex customer service supervisor who helped co-ordinate the Stuff-a-bus campaign this year, points out that having the food display behind the customer service desk prompts members – including young children – to learn lessons about the importance of giving.

“I know that when people see the food, they’re asking, ‘why,’” says Rowe. “It generates a lot of questions.”

Know of a charity drive happening on Dal’s campuses this holiday season? Share the details in the comments!


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