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A River of Giving 

UAlbany Students Make the Holidays Brighter for Local Children

State Quad Residence Directors Chiagbanwe "Chi Chi" Enwere and Nick Stanford push cartloads of gifts to the van. (Photo by Sarah O'Carroll)

ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 11, 2017) – Across the University, before the first snowflakes fell, student elves have been buying gifts, selling baked goods and throwing pies at their RAs, all to make donations to Northern Rivers Family of Services.

UAlbany supported the Northern Rivers Holiday Giving campaign, formerly known as the Holiday Heroes campaign, with a massive effort involving the five quads and student apartments.

The goal was to collect gifts for 1,400 children served by Northern Rivers agencies Northeast Parent & Child Society and Parsons Child & Family Center.

“These gifts will have a huge impact because for some it may be their first time receiving Christmas gifts,” said Rhonda Daniel, who coordinates student interns and volunteers for Northern Rivers. “Many of the families we serve struggle with extreme poverty and cannot afford to buy gifts for their kids. By supporting Northern Rivers Holiday for the ninth consecutive year, the UAlbany students continue to help our families make happy holiday memories that will last a lifetime.”

Jameelee Ford, assistant director for community development in the Residential Life office, said UAlbany students collected $4,000 in toys, money, clothes and books. The gifts were collected Dec. 8 as a caravan of wheeled carts full of colorful presents crossed the quads so that gifts could be piled high in vans.

Volunteers such as graduate assistant Osa Adewemimo of Queens, who is in the M.S. in Taxation program, and Joey Tavarez, an RA from Alumni Quad and a sophomore biology major from the Bronx, helped move gifts from State Quad to the vans. The vans then stopped at all the quads and apartments, en route to Northern Rivers.

Resident assistants in the different quads created their own fund-raising projects and carried them out, all within the span of two weeks.

Hallie Landwehr, a senior psychology major from Baltimore, Maryland, and a resident assistant on Irving Hall in State Quad, said her student residents donated money and toys. She used the money to create “stress jars,” or Mason jars filled with glue, glitter and water. The jars, popular with final exams coming up, were then sold for $2 each with all the proceeds going to Northern Rivers. “But really, Chi Chi is the brains behind getting all the RAs to raise money,” Landwehr said.

Chi Chi is State Quad Residence Director Chiagbanwe Enwere, who encouraged the RAs to make the giving an interactive experience beyond just knocking on students’ doors asking for money.

One activity was pie-throwing, where, for a small fee, students could take part in the time-honored comedy routine of tossing a cream pie into someone's face. “A lot of our RAs sacrificed themselves to be hit with a pie,” Enwere said, adding all the proceeds went so the children at Parsons & Northeast will have a good holiday. 

loading the vans

Hallie Landwehr and Nick Stanford load the van. (Photo by Sarah O'Carroll) 

“There were a lot of interactive programs throughout the week on what it entails to give back,” she said. At State Quad, there was a long list of possible gifts to buy for teens ages 13-19. Many of her RAs are interested in the humanities, medicine and social justice and they were enthusiastic participants.

“I participated last year and it has helped me appreciate the holiday season more,” Enwere said. “Growing up in New York City, the holiday season is festive and inclusive for everyone, even when you can’t afford to spend a lot of money. Holiday Heroes has helped to bring the holiday cheer to those less fortunate so that everyone can experience the joy of the holiday season.”

“It’s very rewarding,” said Meghan Popcun, B.A., ’13, M.A.,’14, who has helped UAlbany collect for the Holiday Heroes campaign since she was a UAlbany freshman in fall 2009. Today she is an assistant director with Orientation and Transition Programs. “The staff at Parsons do so much good work in the community and they appreciate everything we do,” Popcun said.

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany-SUNY offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciencesbusiness, public health, health sciences, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.