For the past 18 years, Austin Peay State University campus organizations and departments and individuals have served as Christmas angels, making sure income-eligible students had gifts for their children during the holiday season.
The tradition is called Help an Elf, and it started at a time when the APSU Office of Student Affairs observed the need to help single parents. Today, it’s more than single parents who need assistance.
“The last few years, we have seen an increase in students who report their spouse has lost their job or they just got out of the military, and they are both in school,” Tammy Bryant, director of Student Affairs programs and services, said. “In the past, it was more single parents who were in school. We have seen an increase in two-student-parent families in the last two or three years, so it is two-parent-students struggling. Of course we still have single parents in need.”
A few of the campus organizations and departments that participated in Help an Elf this year are the History Club, Housing/Residence Life, several fraternities and sororities, chemistry department, Staff Senate and the physical plant. Many faculty, staff members and alumni also adopt families.
“Each year it is a huge undertaking to support the number of students who need assistance, and it is quite a unified effort to provide for these children,” said Vanessya Fountain, administrative assistant who coordinates the adoption process. “Often these groups and individuals go above and beyond and provide a little something for the parents as well.”
“It gives folks on campus an opportunity to do something that helps students and their efforts stay right here on campus,” Bryant said. “We have already had students tell us this year they do not know what they would have done without this program.”
This holiday season, Help an Elf is providing assistance for 78 children of APSU students. The program is coordinated by Student Affairs.
For more information, contact Tammy Bryant, 931-221-7341 or firstname.lastname@example.org. - Dr. Melony Shemberger