No matter the season, Centre College students are devoted to improving the lives of those around them. From constructing playgrounds in June to teaching volleyball in October to building houses in March, students spend countless hours each year participating in community service in Danville and the surrounding counties.
And in December, numerous students—as well as members of the faculty and staff—turn their attention to children in the area who are in need of a little Christmas cheer. Like many businesses and organizations around the country, Centre displays a Salvation Army-sponsored Angel Tree each year, filled with the names and wish lists of children to be “adopted” for the season. Centre Action Reaches Everyone (C.A.R.E.) is responsible for organizing Centre’s Angel Tree.
“The goal is to ensure that these children have a wonderful and memorable Christmas,” says Emmy Robichaud ’13 of Lexington, Ky., who played a key role in organizing the 2010 Angel Tree. “We do this by providing gifts for children who are younger than 12 years old and who are from low-to-no-income households in the community. What I love about this event is that it turns the hope of children having a merry Christmas into a reality.”
Robichaud says that the project is “based on the belief that every child deserves to feel special. There are families in our area choosing between paying for light or heat, and it’s difficult to expect children to accept the reality of not having presents under the tree. The Angel Tree program gives the Centre community the opportunity to reach out and give back, and it’s been so heartwarming to see students and others take the initiative to go out and buy gifts for children they’ll never meet.”
Elizabeth Wisman, Bonner Program coordinator at Centre, says that the project is one that the Centre community sees as extremely important. “Some say that toys and gifts aren’t important in the long run if a child is truly needy: shouldn’t we be spending money on books and food? But I think poverty is especially painful around the holidays, both for parents who are unable to provide and children who feel left out. Every child deserves to feel special, and I think the Angel Tree gives us a chance to make that happen,” Wisman says.
Dozens of staff members, professors and students—individuals and small groups from within Greek organizations, sports teams and other clubs on campus—volunteered to adopt Angels this year, many showing such eagerness that they had selected names before the display was complete.
“All 65 Angels were quickly adopted,” Robichaud says, “and a number of people have called me asking for more. And as I collected the gifts, I was moved by the generosity of the students—they were intent on getting the presents that our Angels really wanted: bikes, Wii games and fairy princess dresses.”
Tess Gates ’12 of Louisville, who was inspired to adopt an Angel because her family does so each Christmas, joined a few of her friends in buying gifts for a one-year-old named Lillian. “We bought her a big basket and filled it with toys, dolls, teddy bears, books and, of course, plenty of necessities, too, like a winter coat, clothes, shoes, pajamas, a warm blanket, a hat and gloves,” Gates says. “It was fun shopping for her and picking out all kinds of little-girl things! I hope and pray that Lillian and all of Centre’s other Angels are able to have a wonderful Christmas this year!”
Having participated in gift-giving projects like the Angel Tree while in high school, Anna Ellis ’14 of Maryville, Tenn., was delighted to have the opportunity to participate again at Centre.
“I just love the idea of being able to boost the self-esteem of a child who normally doesn’t receive gifts or have the trendiest clothes,” she says. “I know how hard it is to be ridiculed by younger kids because you don’t have the most stylish clothes, and I don’t think anyone should have to go through that just because they can’t afford nice things. Hopefully the little girl I sponsored this year will be able to smile a little bigger on the first day of school after Christmas break this year!”
Like Gates and Ellis, all the participating Centre students were thrilled to have the opportunity to bring joy to local children. “Thanks to Centre students,” Robichaud says, “the holidays in homes around Danville have gotten a whole lot brighter.”