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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Gift baskets made holidays better for SJVC students and local seniors

December 26, 2017

SJVC gift wrap party to help local seniorsSJVC wants to make a difference in students’ lives and in their communities one holiday at a time.

“We did a Thanksgiving drive for our students who cannot afford to provide a traditional Thanksgiving meal to their family,” says Devon Dilley, Career Services Manager for SJVC’s Fresno and Madera campuses. “Nominations came from students, staff and faculty who knew somebody’s story and knew they could use a little help through the holidays.”

Both the Fresno and Madera campuses had fundraisers that included dress-down days and donations of canned goods that helped put together some heaping food baskets of turkey, dressing packages, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and other traditional holiday food items.

A big assist came from Home Instead, a company that provides care for local senior citizens and is also a new extern site for SJVC students. They generously donated 80 items to include in SJVC’s Thanksgiving baskets.

“We spread the word to our office staff and caregivers about SJVC’s food drive, and everyone who could help did,” says Theresa Shon, Home Care Consultant for Home Instead. “We had caregivers come in with bags of onion topping for green bean casserole. Office staff members came in with cases of cream of mushroom (soup) and bags of potatoes, and anything that was on the list of items needed. Everyone came together to help out students in our community.”

Home Instead staff did not hesitate to support SJVC students. “At Home Instead, we think it is important to support our community and their needs,” says Theresa.

Veronica Behringer, Fresno campus Dean of Student Services, collected and then delivered the Thanksgiving baskets to grateful students. All were delivered privately. Leftover food items were donated to the Fresno campus food pantry.

Both SJVC campuses were more than happy to return the volunteer effort when Home Instead held its annual “Be a Santa to a Senior” event recently.

Over 9,000 senior citizens in the Central Valley are without family and have no reason to expect a gift at Christmas. Each year, Home Instead steps in and pulls the community together to let many of those seniors know that someone cares. They deliver winter-wear items such as scarves, beanies, gloves and socks to those expecting nothing at all.

“We just feel that sometimes people forget about our senior citizens,” says Devon. “I make sure that we don’t forget. It’s important because we want them to feel love, too. Our students, staff and faculty are all in.”

This year, SJVC donated over 300 items, including hats, gloves, blankets and 22 hand-knitted beanies and scarves. “Once the money comes in, I go out and get all the items,” says Devon. “It’s a lot of fun. They look at me crazy when I buy 50 pairs of socks!”

Medical Assisting student Margaret Gamboa was at a Madera discount store buying winter socks with safety grips on the bottom when she noticed an elderly lady in line. “I told her we were having a Christmas gift drive and asked if she would appreciate a pair of socks,” says Margaret. The lady explained that, as a diabetic, she was discouraged from wearing shoes around the house because they restricted her circulation. Her feet were often cold on the wood floors and most socks made her prone to slip. On the spot, Margaret gave her one of the pairs she had just purchased. “She asked me to let everyone know how appreciative she was for what SJVC and the community were doing for senior citizens.”

Home Instead hosts a big wrapping party where volunteers put the final touches on the gifts to be distributed to seniors at facilities and also to many of those who are still independent enough to stay at home.

Lenny Landa, Medical Assisting student at the Madera campus, was responsible for getting the gifts that were collected to the wrapping party. “It’s a good thing that we are helping because they (seniors) raised our parents and our parents raised us,” says Lenny. “There’s value in community service because it shows that people care. That’s very important nowadays because there are so many people in need. One little thing at a time makes a huge impact on the community.”

“You think about somebody not having anything, not even a visitor for the holiday,” says Devon. “It just breaks my heart. Even if we don’t get to see it (gift delivery), we know that it’s happening. That’s what makes it so much fun.”

SJVC has always encouraged students to volunteer in their communities. Skills are sharpened, communication is strengthened, and relationships are formed that serve each of them personally and professionally for all their lives.

“We love that SJVC was able to help support the seniors in our community for the second year. Knowing that students in the Fresno and Madera area care about our senior community is so inspiring,” says Theresa.

Goodwill is a shared effort that brings out the best in those who make it a priority in their lives.