Wednesday, December 6, 2006
Staff members work to give children a merry Christmas
|Financial Aid staff members wrapped the gifts together during their lunch hour on Dec. 5. |
By Rebecca Wyatt, OU Web Writer
A group of staff members from Career Services and Financial Aid are helping Santa make sure the holiday wishes of some local children come true. The “elves” are donating gifts to needy children through the Bloomfield Optimist Club’s Children’s Holiday Wish program. Led by Program Manager Carol Anne Ketelsen, Career Services has been participating in the program for four years. Joann Dybash, an office assistant in Financial Aid, used to work in Career Services and started the tradition last year in her office. Both offices are hoping other OU departments will join in the giving in the future.
This year, the two departments have been able to sponsor nine children. The children supply the Optimist Club with a list, which is passed on to the Holiday Wish participants.
“This year, one of the children was a four-year-old boy who wanted Spiderman and Superman items. We also had a four-year-old girl who wanted princess stuff and Carebears,” Ketelsen said.
Ketelsen has always been involved in community service activities and ran the AmeriCorps program at OU for 10 years. AmeriCorps would adopt families and children throughout the year. She approached her Career Services coworkers about adopting a family for the holidays four years ago and Director Bob Thomas put her in touch with the Bloomfield Optimist Club. Career Services has participated each year since.
Dybash enjoyed the program so much while working at Career Services that she decided to get Financial Aid involved last year.
“We have such a great time selecting the gifts and wrapping them,” Dybash said. “It certainly doesn’t feel like work. As we wrap the gifts, we talk and learn more about each other…it’s a team building exercise, but we also get to give back to the community.”
|Along with the gifts the children requested, the group also chipped in for hats, gloves and scarves to accompany the presents.|
A staff member can choose to sponsor a child from the program, which costs about $35-40; they can partner with another staff member; or they can donate money which Ketelsen uses to buy scarves, hats and gloves for each child that is support by OU participants through the program.
“This year, our department has 100 percent participation,” said Ketelsen. “This program is nice because everybody’s financial situation is different. Some people are able to give a few dollars while some people are sponsoring a whole child, but everyone is involved. Even our student employees have pitched in and we certainly don’t expect that.”
In addition to donating money, and in some cases taking the time to pick out the gifts, the OU participants hold a wrapping party to package the gifts. The Financial Aid participants held their wrapping party on Tuesday, Dec. 5 and wrapped gifts while enjoying pizza and stories about their Christmases as children. Ketelsen said the Career Services participants wrap gifts while listening to Christmas music.
The Optimist Club will distribute the gifts to the needy children anonymously.
While it is too late to participate this year, Ketelsen would like to see more departments participate next year. The children’s wish lists are provided to participants shortly after Thanksgiving. Ketelsen said anyone interested in participating can contact her now and she will let the Optimist Club of their interest.
“The Bloomfield Optimist Club is trying to help 2,500 children this Christmas so there is the opportunity for us to get more names in the future,” said Ketelsen.
Other groups on campus also provide for those who are less fortunate. The academic advisers on campus have adopted an eight-person family through Lighthouse for the holiday season.
For more information, or to sign up for next year, contact Ketelsen at (248) 370-3257 or Ketelsen@oakland.edu.