Marist’s Students and Staff Give Back on #GivingTuesday

By Makena Gera

#GivingTuesday is a global initiative aimed at giving back during the holiday season. This year, Dean of the School of Communication and the Arts Lyn Lepre decided it would be a perfect opportunity for the school, as well as the entire Marist College community, to come together and donate their time, money, and energy this great cause.

“I’ve been here for about 10 years, and bar none [Marist] is the most giving community I have ever seen; it’s just Marist’s culture,” says Lepre, who served as the coordinator for Marist’s #GivingTuesday event.

Lepre and her faculty came up with the idea to create “Comfort Kits” for cancer patients in the area. The kits will contain items of comfort and inspiration to help make the patients’ fight against cancer a little easier for them and their families. Once completed, the kits will include blankets, scarves, and words of encouragement and will be sent to cancer centers throughout the area including Vassar Brothers Medical Center, Northern Westchester’s Cancer Center, Albany Medical Center’s Cancer Center, and the local charity Sparrow’s Nest.

 Marist School of Communications and the Arts staff at the #GivingTuesday event. 

Marist School of Communications and the Arts staff at the #GivingTuesday event. 

Unfortunately, cancer has touched a vast majority of people’s lives in some way or another, and Lepre and her team recognize the massive number of people who know someone who has been affected by it.  They understand how difficult it is go to through treatment, or to see a loved one go through it, and came up with the idea of creating these Comfort Kits as a way to make the fight a little easier.

For the past six weeks, the school has been asking students and faculty for donations of items that could be used in the kits, including scarves, hats, slippers, tea, candles, magazines, and playing cards. The response from the Marist community was overwhelming. Students and staff went above and beyond in contributing more than just the items on the list; they created handmade items and meaningful messages of support to be included in the Kits as well.

Jen Eden from the School of Communications and the Arts and Meg Bollmann of from the School of Management held crochet nights over the past few weeks to create handmade hats and blankets with students and staff. Additionally, Marist’s Music Department created a Spotify playlist to be included in the kits, the Mporium gave coupons to students who donated items to the cause. Joanna D’Avanzo of the School of Communications and Jen Finn from the Fashion Department even designed and created t-shirts for volunteers creating the Comfort Kits. Most importantly, however, was the outpouring of students who gave their time during the #GivingTuesday event on November 28.

 The #GivingTuesday shirts. 

The #GivingTuesday shirts. 

The event on Tuesday afternoon was the culmination of the past month’s efforts. In the second floor lounge of Lowell Thomas, students and staff took the time to come in and create handmade no-sew fleece blankets, write out cards of encouragement and support for the patients, and stuff the kits with supplies. “The outpouring has been amazing” says Lepre of the Marist’s communities contributions, “we have terrific students, an amazing faculty and a fabulous staff. People have been working [so hard] to help with this.”

The lounge was full of volunteers, chairs were piled high with blankets, and the tables once overflowing with supplies were empty as over 150 Comfort Kits were being packed and prepared to be sent off. The sheer amount of students and faculty who selflessly took time out of their day to work to make the holiday season a little easier for those affected by cancer is a testament to the giving culture here at Marist.

 Creating the Comfort Kits. 

Creating the Comfort Kits. 

The support, donations, and enthusiasm of volunteers was overwhelming, and whether they had ever been personally affected by cancer or not, they gave their time and efforts to make someone else’s holiday season a little more joyful. Students were more than willing to give whatever they could to a good cause, and this year’s #GivingTuesday project serves as an excellent example of Marist’s culture of kindness and charity.

In the corner of the Lowell Thomas lounge, a sign was full of volunteers’ reasons for contributing to the event. One response encapsulated the sentiment of selflessness in the Marist community, stating “I am giving my time on #GivingTuesday...because I can.”