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12 Days of Christmas Project helps local families in need

by ALICIA SMITH | Monday, December 6, 2010

As a way to reach out to the local community and help those in need during the Christmas season, Saint Mary’s Office of Civic and Social Engagement (OCSE) is holding the 12 Days of Christmas Project.

The project began by helping eight families from Resources for Enriching Adult Living (REAL) Services in 2004, said Carrie Call, director of OCSE.

“The Primary object of the 12 Days of Christmas is to collect funds, clothing, food and gifts for area families in need,” Call said. “This is done mostly through ‘adoptions’ of families or children by individuals or departments on campus.”

Call said the project has continued annually. Each year, students, faculty and staff of the College are invited to participate in fundraisers, gift drives and volunteer opportunities in order to benefit a variety of charities.

This year. the project’s proceeds will support Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army, REAL Services and the College Academy of Tutoring (CAT) partner schools, Call said.

“This year we are supporting over 40 adults and over 70 children,” she said.

Call said the project offers a wide range of programs aimed to gather resources to benefit the local charitable organizations.

A Winter Wonderland event, in which local children came to the College and participate in crafts and other activities, was held Saturday.

Ornament decorating is scheduled for Tuesday and a blood drive is scheduled for Wednesday. Also, there will be a Christmas Craft Show Friday and bell ringing for the Salvation Army Saturday. Other events include a toy drive done by Le Mans Hall and a ‘comfort tree’ by McCandless Hall, which collects items such as socks, blankets and scarves for children.

“There are so many ways students can be involved,” Call said. “They can attend the social events, sign up to ring bells for the Salvation Army, buy a gift for a child or adult in need, bake cookies for the food tables at the craft fair, attend the Pre-Kwanza event or go to Advent Vespers services or shop at the craft fair.”

Call said it is important to have programs like the 12 Days of Christmas Project during the holiday season.

“During a season that is often marked by huge expenditures of money, it’s good to remember those who are living without the basic necessitates,” she said. “There are still so many people without work, and there are so many children in South Bend living in poverty. For those of us who have been more fortunate, we need to make sure we lift up others around us.”

The program is also important because it allows students to celebrate the Christmas season, Call said.

“The events help the students feel closer to the holiday season,” she said. “For many of them it is hard to be away from home or loved ones during December. This gives them an opportunity to experience the holiday season and help out some folks, too.”

Call said she hopes the 12 Days of Christmas Project puts the Christmas season into perspective, while still allowing participants to enjoy their experiences.

“I hope that we all feel grateful for the many things in life we take for granted and we keep those in mind who are living through difficult times,” she said. “I also hope people have fun and experience some joy.”