It’s all in the giving

It’s all in the giving

Profs make service to others a priority this holiday season
The Rowan women's basketball team joined with local children for the annual "Gifts for Giving" event earlier this month.

If you’re looking for kind, generous hearts, look no further than the students, faculty, staff and administrators in the Rowan University community.

Megan Hilbert and Shelly Klink experienced that first hand this holiday season.

“The Rowan community is full of kindness and giving,” says Hilbert, a junior field hockey player and co-coordinator of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).

For the ninth consecutive year, SAAC teamed up with An Opportunity’s Knockin' (AOK) , a non-profit community group, to help children shop for presents for their loved ones. Altogether, 175 Rowan athletes spent a Sunday in December with 86 children from surrounding communities to shop for gifts at the Wal-Mart in Turnersville during the “Gifts for Giving” event. Then, they returned to Esby Gymnasium, where the students helped the children wrap more than 300 presents.

AOK works with community sponsors to raise funds so that children can have the chance to shop for loved ones. For Rowan athletes, the event is all about giving—of their time, of their talents, and of themselves, says Hilbert.

“This is one of the biggest events SAAC does,” says Hilbert. “And we went from 30 kids last year to 86 this year.

“This is important because it gives back to the community. The little kids look up to the athletes. Our involvement shows the kids that it’s possible to go to college and also be athletes. I know a lot of the athletes talked to the children about going to college. And, of course, it also teaches the kids about giving to others—that giving is more important than receiving.”

After the shopping and wrapping were done—“We definitely bought a lot of tape…that’s for sure,” Hilbert laughs—the athletes and children enjoyed sports, pizza and a visit with Santa. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Sam Nocito became “Sam-ta Claus” as he patiently listened to the gift requests from 86 children. Each child left with a gift for themselves.

“I give him so many props,” Hilbert says, noting that Nocito earned the Santa gig after successfully holding a job as St. Nick to pets a few years ago. “He sat there and listened to 86 kids tell him what they wanted for Christmas. I was so proud of him. He’s such a kind-hearted person.”

Feeding families

Kindness was in abundance during Rowan’s annual Adopt-A-Family food donation drive, organized by the Office of Volunteerism, Community Engagement & Commuter Services.

Altogether, members of the Rowan community donated 156 Thanksgiving Day meal baskets to families throughout South Jersey through the Boys & Girls Clubs of Gloucester County, the New Jersey State Department of Children and Families, Volunteers of America and the Healing Wings Church of God in Christ in Glassboro. Additionally, more than 170 pounds of bulk donations of non-perishable items, frozen turkeys and cases of potatoes were delivered to the Food Bank of South Jersey in Pennsauken.

“Rowan’s donations amounted to more than 6,300 non-perishable items and $5,169 worth of grocery gift cards,” says Klink, administrative assistant in VCECS, noting that the University community’s outpouring of support this season was the largest in Rowan history.

As donations poured in throughout Thanksgiving week, Klink admits to having trouble keeping her emotions in check. There was the student who single-handedly adopted three families…fraternities and sororities that brought in boxes brimming with food stuffs…Gourmet Dining, which adopted 13 families…the staff of the Chamberlain Student Center, which adopted 10 families…the Class of 2019 at Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine…and the list goes on…and on…and on, Klink says.

“Everyone participating was just overjoyed to be doing it,” says Klink. “My emotions were on a roller coaster all week. It was very heartwarming.”

A spirit of service

Rowan’s Student Government Association (SGA) was active in community service, working with Leadership Rowan and University athletics to collect toys for children at Robins' Nest, which provides community-based services to families in Glassboro.

Additionally, as part of its annual Holiday Week celebration, SGA joined forces with VCECS as students spent an afternoon working to serve meals to impoverished residents in Camden at the Cathedral Kitchen. SGA also organized clothing and food drives organized, as well as a holiday letter writing campaign for military personnel serving overseas.

“SGA tries to lend a hand in any way we can,” says SGA President Daniel Cardona. “We know we can make a big difference by starting small and focusing on interpersonal service. We believe simple gestures like writing letters or donating clothes can positively impact someone’s day or even their life.”

The Division of Student Life took a leadership role in other ways. The Veteran Student Organization participated in a Toys for Tots drive, as did Rowan After Hours, which also collected food donations during the Boro in Lights celebration in collaboration with the Borough of Glassboro.

The Office of Social Justice, Inclusion and Conflict Resolution held a winter coat drive to benefit the Angels of God Clothing Closet in Pitman, while the American Federation of Teachers collected new hats, gloves, and books for preschoolers in the Glassboro HeadStart Center.

Rowan’s Anime Club made sure homeless pets felt the love this holiday season as well. The club collected dog and cat food, towels, blankets and donations to benefit a local animal shelter.