APSU Student Affairs Celebrates 25 Years of Help an Elf Holiday Gift Program
CLARKSVILLE, Tennessee — The Office of Student Affairs at Austin Peay State University is celebrating the 25th year of the Help An Elf Holiday Gift Program. The program is designed to assist income eligible, full-time APSU student parents with holiday shopping by providing gifts for their children. To recognize 25 years of the program, APSU Student Affairs is seeking donations of gift cards to local grocery stores to support student families with food during the holiday season.
“To have the opportunity to come together as a campus and help support our students for so many years is incredible,” Dr. Tammy Bryant, director of Student Affairs, said. “We have 25 families with 48 children this year so it would be fantastic to receive 25 grocery gift cards to give these student parents.”
Gift card donations from the community can be dropped off through Dec. 9 between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. at Austin Peay’s Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement, 322 Home Avenue, or individuals can call 931-221-6570 to make other arrangements to donate.
Throughout the past 25 years, the Help an Elf program has provided holiday gifts to nearly 1,000 children of APSU students through the unwavering support of the APSU campus community. Unlike some other gift assistance programs, Help an Elf adopts children in each family together. Student Affairs staff coordinate the confidential adoption of income-eligible student families by APSU organizations, departments and groups, as well as individual faculty and staff. Many have made it a tradition to adopt an elf family and coordinate shopping, wrapping and delivery of gifts to the office just in time for the holiday. A consistent theme across the years is the excitement of adopters, many of whom adopt a family every year, to the smiles and often tears of the student parents when they arrive to pick up packages for their children. Requests for specific gifts range but often include very basic items of socks, shoes, coats and warm clothing. Thanks to the generosity of the adopters, gifts often include much more.
The Help an Elf program originated in the early 1990s when Barbara Phillips, former associate Dean of Students and assistant vice president of Student Affairs, had an idea to support student parents during the holidays. At the time, Phillips served as advisor for Project Serve, a student service organization that supported multiple community service projects.
“Project Serve members wanted to be involved and give back to the community and the campus. The students did a wonderful job establishing the Help an Elf program,” Phillips said. Eventually Project Serve ceased to exist and Student Affairs stepped in to continue the popular holiday program.
Several Student Affairs staff have worked with the program throughout the years, including Vanessya Fountain and Lynne Halliburton.
“This is one of my favorite times of the year, and it’s amazing to see all the support we continue to receive for Help an Elf. I get many messages from the student parents, and it is so meaningful to see the tremendous appreciation they have for this assistance,” Diana Forte, administrative assistant to the director in Student Affairs, said.
To make a contribution, call Student Affairs at 931-221-6570 or 931-221-6258. Visit the website for additional information at www.apsu.edu/student-affairs/help-an-elf/.
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