Thursday, October 23, 2014

Students give back

This November and December, Liberty University is partnering with local branches of the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, Samaritan’s Purse and the Salvation Army to provide for the needs of the Lynchburg area public, according to Darren Wu, the Liberty Center for Christian Community Service Coordinator.

The Liberty students staff and faculty are partnering alongside Sodexo and the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank for a food drive happening now until the Nov. 20 Convocation. Donations may be made in the form of any non-perishable items, Wu said.

According to Wu, early donations by students can be dropped off at the Reber-Thomas Dining Hall. A second location to donate is located at Thomas Road Baptist Church. The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank will collect items when the drive ends at Convocation and distribute them to the Southside Tobacco Commission Counties.

“The main thing I want to highlight is that Sodexo has generously agreed to match student, faculty and staff donations pound for pound,” Wu said. “Basically, if the students give the same way they have in the past, they are already going to double their donations because Sodexo is going to match it. The past two years, the students have raised about 600 pounds.”
This is the third year Liberty has partnered with Sodexo’s Stop Hunger Foundation, according to Julia Pfeifer, area marketing coordinator for Sodexo. Their purpose is addressing and meeting the needs of local children suffering from starvation.

Liberty volunteers will help the Salvation Army bell ringers from now until Dec. 24 to gather financial donations for individuals within the Central Virginia area, Wu said. The collection site is located outside the Wal-Mart store entrance located on Wards Road. Online donations are also possible through the Salvation Army website.

According to Wu, students, faculty and staff have taken turns ringing the bell for this event in the past. Many of Liberty’s volunteers are student athletes.

“(Bell ringing) is the Salvation Army’s primary fundraiser for the entire year,” Wu said.

Collections will fund the Salvation Army’s emergency shelter, summer camps and Christmas family assistance for more than 2,000 individuals, according to The Salvation Army’s website. They also provide year-round feeding programs and assist women and children through the Hope House shelter, according to the Virginia Salvation Army online page.

According to Wu, students are encouraged to participate in National Collection Week Nov. 18-25 for Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse. The operation sponsors children in more than 130 countries using shoeboxes filled with gifts.

Students have the chance to pick up and drop off their boxes at the Champion office in DeMoss Hall room 1035 until Nov. 20. According to Omar Adams, advertising director for the Liberty Champion, students can also get shoe boxes at the Office of Student Leadership.

According to Ashley Wilkes, media associate of Operation Christmas Child, more than 100,000 volunteers in the Unites States alone and another 500,000 overseas volunteers package gift-filled shoeboxes throughout the year.

“For many of these children who are living in the midst of war, poverty and disease, this is the first gift they have ever received,” Wilkes said. “A lack of school supplies is the only thing restricting many kids from attending school, but a simple shoebox gift with the most basic supplies can have a lasting impact.”

Wilkes explained that the empty shoeboxes are filled with school supplies, toys, letters of encouragement, and hygiene items and are dropped off to nearby collection sites. Once the shoeboxes are collected by Samaritan’s Purse, they are examined for content before shipment overseas.

“Regardless of geographical or situational background, we can all relate to the joy experienced from the simplest gifts as a child—crayons, hair clips, a soccer ball,” Wilkes said.

“Full circle stories of those who received a shoebox in their home country and are now living in the U.S. are testaments to the power of a simple gift.”

To find out more about each of these charities, email cser@liberty.edu.

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