‘Tis the Season: Holiday Philanthropy at Whitman

It’s the Holiday Season—a time to be grateful for what we have, large or small. For many students, it’s also a time to give.

It’s true that college students can barely strangle an extra penny out of their wallets when buying coffee at Reid; nonetheless, Whitties are actively spreading the Holiday Spirit this year.

Sophomore Annie Sirski worked hard on her holiday charity project to provide children in need at Blue Ridge Elementary School with new shoes. Sirski worked with the organization Shoes That Fit last summer, and is now bringing the project to Walla Walla for the first time.

“I was so inspired by the stories I heard, and I knew that Walla Walla had some issues with poverty, so I decided to give it a try here,” Sirski said.

Blue Ridge is Walla Walla’s most ethnically diverse school; furthermore, according to Principal Kim Doepker, about 90 percent of its students are on free or reduced lunch. This year,  Sirski has matched 30 of those students with groups on Whitman campus. Each group receives the information and shoe size of a child, then takes time to purchase the shoes.

“For some of the children receiving donations, these shoes will be one of the only new things the child have ever owned,” said Sirski.

People are eager to take part in her project because it affects local children and the town of Walla Walla. She says she received incredible support from Whitman faculty, staff, and students.

“I am especially impressed with student contributions—we may be starving college students but a lot of Whitties still like to give,” said Sirski.

In particular, she noted Sigma Chi and their support by donatingy three pairs of shoes—even offering to drive to K-Mart and buy them.

Sirski attributes her success to Susan Prudente, the new Community Liaison at the Student Engagement Center.

“Susan Prudente is one of the most helpful and knowledgeable women I’ve met, and I think she deserves to get her name out to the student body,” said Sirski.

Sirski says her project engaged her even beyond Whitman campus.

“This project has helped me learn a lot about the dynamics of Walla Walla. I”ve learned a lot about the culture of poverty and providing donations without making a child feel pitied, and it has brought to my attention the awesome link forming between this school and Whitman,” she said.

Sirski’s project is not the only relationship Whitman has with Blueridge. Additionally, Blueridge is where the Mentor program works, where Whitman sends several student interns, and where many donations for the Adopt-A-Family program are received.

“The staff is thrilled to have this blossoming relationship and it has been a pleasure working with them,” said Sirski.

The Whitman community is also active in the Adopt-A-Family program. In this project, groups on campus collect money to buy gifts requested by Walla Walla families living at or below the poverty level. Each group becomes responsible for buying, wrapping, and delivering the gifts to their adopted families.

According to Community Service Coordinator Interim Abby Juhasz, Whitman campus supported 30 families this year, through numerous groups such as Alpha Phi, WCTS, the Music Department, Challah for Hunger and the Office of Financial Aid.

“It’s an opportunity for faculty, staff, and students to come together and support the local community,” said Juhasz.

Groups chose gifts from the “wants” and “needs” lists that each family submits, trying to donate a balanace between the two.

“Many of the families wouldn’t have basic necessities otherwise,” said Juhasz.

This year, Whitties supported families ranging in size from one to eight people. All gifts have been wrapped by Whitman student community service interns and delivered to the adopted families.




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