Amidst the hustle, bustle and expense of the season, Christmas cheer may seem in short supply, but it doesn’t have to. Several organizations within SUU and across Iron County are aiming to help more than a thousand people this holiday season, and you can help. If we've anything to learn from the Grinch, aside from singing out loud and clear, the best way to spread holiday cheer is in service to others.
Beginning four years ago, SUU combined efforts with Iron County Holiday Assistance (ICHA) to give Christmas to families in the county that wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford much by way of holiday festivities. Their impact continues to spread, and the two organizations now have eight programs within which community members may participate to give back this holiday season.
The largest of these efforts is the creation of the Holiday Store. Donations of both cash and goods will be gathered to a central location where those in need may “shop” for gifts for their family at no expense. Families who qualify for the ICHA program may select two gifts, one game, one blanket and one clothing item per child.
“Having families choose what their children will be getting at the Holiday Store empowers them and has proven to be more effective than giving them a box of what we think would match the child’s interests,” said Pam Branin, associate director the Community Engagement Center at SUU.
Items “sold” at the Holiday Store are collected through various donation programs across Iron County, including Angel Trees. Current Angel Trees can be found in the Sharwan Smith Student Center on SUU’s campus, within several local banks and at City Hall. Community members may collect assignments from the trees until November 30.
Another way to contribute to the Holiday Store is through SUU’s Stuff the Truck program, which will be held at two different locations this winter. Beginning Friday, November 23, community members may drop off new and gently used items as well as cash donations at Wal-Mart, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. After that, the Stuff the Truck truck will be outside the Gerald R. Sherratt Library from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on November 27 and 28. Volunteers will be on hand at both locations to help collect donations and give out hot chocolate.
For both the Angel Tree and Stuff the Truck, Branin said that all donations are accepted but requests that gifts be new or gently used, and unwrapped. Some of the most requested items from families in need are toys, clothing and shoes for children up to 18 years old, diapers, sports equipment, coats, gift certificates and make-up. Donations will be accepted until December 7.
To donate food, specifically, SUU and ICHA request that contributions be taken directly to SUU’s Community Engagement Center, at 417 W. 200 S., or Iron County Care and Share, 244 W. 900 N.
Last year, according to Branin, campus and community members donated enough gifts and food items to help 430 families, including more than 1,000 children. Branin and her colleagues hope to increase that number served this year.
Other programs utilized by ICHA and SUU are Toys for Tots, Shop with a Cop and the Coins for Christmas Challenge.
If you have a family in need of holiday assistance, applications for the ICHA program will be accepted through November 30. To find out if you and your family are eligible to be included, contact SUU’s Community Engagement Center at 435-865-8335.