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JSU Spreads Holiday Cheer Throughout the World

11/30/2015

by Katie Cline

It’s the most wonderful time of the year on the campus of Jacksonville State University. Wreaths deck the halls of Bibb Graves, yuletide carols are being sung in Mason Hall, and the smells of holiday cooking are nipping at noises in Jack Hopper Dining Hall. It’s the time of year to be thankful for what we have and to remember those who are less fortunate – an act that the students and faculty of JSU take to heart.

“Christmas is a special time for me at JSU,” said Jesslan Sharp, vice president of the Student Senate, “Students, faculty and staff come together to not only celebrate the holidays, but also donate toys to children in need. Truly it's a time for everyone – no matter what club, department or association one may be a part of – to come together in order to be a part of something bigger, something that provides an outlet to do good for others. That is what Christmastime is all about, after all, and I am so grateful to be a small part of a university that upholds that value."

The SGA is gathering toys for needy children in our community at JSU in Lights on Nov. 30. Please bring a stuffed bear, toy car or other toy suitable for children ages 5-10, to be distributed by the Jacksonville Christian Outreach Center this holiday season.

For those hoping to make the season a little brighter for others this year, you can also get involved with one of the longest running holiday service projects on campus – the Guatemala Children Christmas Shoebox Program, which is sponsored annually by the JSU History Club and Phi Alpha Theta history honor society. Headed by Dr. George Lauderbaugh, a JSU professor of history, the annual toy drive is now in its 15th year at JSU. The goal is to bring Christmas gifts to children in Guatemala who otherwise would go without.

Lauderbaugh himself has been involved with the Alabama-Guatemala Partners of the Americas since 1992 when he was a graduate student at the University of Alabama. Today, he serves as a board member for the organization. When he came to JSU in 2000, he brought with him eight years of partnership and the hopes of many more.

“I have been to Guatemala and seen the need of children living in poverty,” said Lauderbaugh. “That is what brings me back [to the project] year after year.”

His first year at JSU, Lauderbaugh started the Guatemala Christmas Shoebox Program. From its inception, the drive has experienced success at JSU. The first few years, Lauderbaugh recalls, they received about 100 boxes each year. Last year, they collected almost 500 boxes. The History and Foreign Language department has also come up with creative ways to pay for the cost of shipping. This year, Dr. Llewelyn Cook in the history department organized a book sale that raised more than $200 to go toward shipping expenses.

To participate in the shoebox program, simply fill a shoebox with small gifts, wrap it and bring it to Stone Center room 309 by Dec. 11. Some suggested items for the shoeboxes include small stuffed animals, balls, toys, pencils, pens, crayons, notebooks, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a comb or brush, a washcloth, socks, sunglasses and hair clips. Please mark the box as either being for a boy or a girl and indicate one of three age groups: 5-9, 10-13 or 14-16.

For the children who receive these shoeboxes, it is more than a toy car or a teddy bear: it is Christmas. Without the generosity of people from the small town of Jacksonville, many of these children would not have a Christmas at all, and what may seem like trivial items to us mean the world to children who have never had the luxury of having them.

“It is a chance to help others during a season when we receive so much,” Lauderbaugh said.

For more information on the Guatemala Children Shoebox Program or if you need a shoebox to fill, contact Dr. Lauderbaugh at 256-782-8044 or glauderb@jsu.edu.

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