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UC Merced Offers Holiday Gifts From the Heart

December 5, 2008

When Brenda Ramirez, Nick Navarrette and Stephanie Peterson talk about their holiday wish lists, they don’t include high-tech gadgets or baubles for themselves. Their wishes involve helping others and giving back to the community.

Ramirez, a senior majoring in psychology, wants to outfit children with warm winter coats. Navarrette, a UC Merced police officer, hopes he and his colleagues can provide new toys to local fourth-graders. And staffer Peterson has organized a canned food drive to put food on the tables and in the stomachs of local residents in need.

Their efforts are examples of how UC Merced students, faculty and staff are reaching out to help others in need this holiday season by organizing food, toy and clothing drives.

Student Life programs director Enrique Guzman is working with the Boys and Girls Club of Merced County to coordinate a toy drive to benefit children who attend the program. This is the third year the Office of Student Life has hosted a holiday toy drive. Organizers hope to receive enough toys to accommodate 300 children. Collected toys will be distributed Dec. 15.

“We’re asking people to donate a gift for any age child, from birth to 18 years of age,” Guzman said. “We definitely need a lot of support, especially with the economy being the way it is this year. We’re asking people to dig deep down inside and make an effort to give.”

This week, UC Merced’s Staff Assembly kicked off a canned food drive that will continue through Dec. 15. Donated items will be given to the Merced Emergency Food Bank. The most needed items are: canned chicken, tuna, soups, beans, fruit, vegetables, peanut butter, jelly, pasta, macaroni and cheese and breakfast cereals. Food collection bins are on campus in the Lantern and dining hall and also off campus at UC Merced’s Mondo and Castle offices. Monetary donations will also be accepted, and those funds will be used to purchase frozen turkeys. All donations received will be matched by Staff Assembly and the Office of the Chancellor. On Dec. 10, donors can drop off their contributions and get a free cup of coffee and a pastry during Drive-Up-and –Donate Day from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Brenda Ramirez, a member of Kappa Delta Chi’s UC Merced colony, said she and her sorority sisters have chosen The Salvation Army’s Coats for Kids program as the targe of their philanthropy this season. The group has four bins in front of the Office of Student Life where donors can deposit coats.

“We’re asking for any coats that are in good condition,” she said. A local dry cleaning company has offered to clean donated used coats for free. The garments will be distributed from Dec. 11 to Dec. 18.

Officer Navarrette, who works with the police department’s Mentor Program, collected toys for fourth-grade students at Alicia Reyes Elementary School. This is the third year the Mentor Program has organized a toy drive and holiday party. Navarrette and Officer Maria Botwright have already distributed the toys.