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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

SJVC ‘family’ looks out for its own

December 11, 2014

Visalia Thanksgiving BasketsA college founded on family values demonstrated just what that means when the Visalia campus gave 66 Thanksgiving dinner baskets to students in need.

“This college was founded by a family (Perry) that had a dream and a vision,” says Elisia Sanchez, Student Resource Coordinator for the Visalia campus. “It’s the same for us; it’s all about family, and we wanted to make things a little easier for our students and their families.”

Collection of dry goods started in October, and really picked up steam in November with fundraising bake sales and campus clubs sending letters to local businesses, asking for contributions. “The Lions Club really came through with 15 turkeys for us,” says Elisia. The original goal was to give away 50 Thanksgiving dinner baskets, but the campus raised enough funds to fill 66 baskets for students needing a little holiday help.

These were not skimpy baskets. Each one had a huge turkey of 15-18 lbs, and everything from gravy to fresh baked pie.

All of those turkeys were kept frozen with the help of the campus HVAC-R program students. “Our HVAC guys got to learn how to put together a walk-in freezer and did a great job of keeping our turkeys frozen,” says Elisia.

Staff, faculty and a few caring students put forward student names who, they felt, could use a little Thanksgiving kindness and generosity. Discretion was always intact, both in the recipient nomination process and the eventual delivery.

Elisia called each person nominated and casually inquired about their Thanksgiving plans, while finding out how many children were in the family at home. “A lot weren’t even planning to have a meal for Thanksgiving, but others wanted the basket to go to someone else who needed it more. A handful of students tracked me down to request a basket for themselves, and I felt that if they asked for help, they must really need one,” said Elisia, who considers herself pretty good at determining “want” from “need.” The extra baskets were just enough to make that happen.

“Our students have a lot of pride and some didn’t want others to know that they were struggling,” says Elisia. “One was a single dad with four kids at home. He was very happy to be one of the students getting a basket.”

Elisia also earmarked a few families with young children who would be ideal candidates for the Christmas Star program. Campus “angels” choose a “star” and provide a special gift for the child they select.

Elisia delivered all 66 of the baskets, herself, using a Facilities Maintenance golf cart. She would pop in to a class and ask to borrow a student for a minute. Once outside, she would ask, “Got your car keys?” When the student realized that they were receiving this huge holiday bounty, they were beside themselves with joy.

“They really didn’t expect to get all of that,” says Elisia, and a lot of them got so excited. There were lots of hugs and gratitude.”  And, very likely a few tears of relief.

“We wanted to make sure that our entire SJVC family could enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving meal, and this made all our efforts worth it,” says Elisia.

A little kindness can go a long way. Elisia mentions a graduate who recently came back to the campus to donate his own time and skill to whatever might be needed. He was pretty clear about his reasoning. “You helped me when I was in need, now I want to come back and help someone else here.”

It seems a generous heart is contagious.