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We hope you are as inspired by those in the Longwood community as we are every day. Here are 10 more inspiring ways we’ve seen #LancersShowLove this holiday season…
1. Everyone can do something.
For Alumni Association President Kathleen Early ’92, the holidays have long been an opportunity to give back—a legacy she inherited from her parents. For the past eight years, Early has “adopted” a child from a Washington, D.C., homeless shelter. “I hope that providing a child with a winter coat, pajamas, outfits, books or toys might eliminate a few challenges they face on a daily basis,” she said. “It’s uplifting to help one child facing challenging household circumstances have a special Christmas day. Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something.”
2. A positive role model.
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3. Warm and fuzzies.
For soldiers and their families, spending the holidays apart is one of the toughest challenges to endure. Pining for a loved one in uniform is not lost on Heather Gardner Blakely ’86, whose father, brother and husband all served or serve in the military. So to bring a little bit of home to a foreign land, she started the Letters to Soldiers Club, which delivers cards, letters and care packages to troops deployed overseas. “The experience of working with the students to show their support to our brave men and women is fun and enjoyable,” she said. “To know their creativity and works of art will bring a smile to a hero is what the club is all about.”
4. All sorts of creative ways to help.
Sometimes when the pressures of life get to you, there’s just nothing that beats a warm chocolate chip cookie. Kendall Lee ’01, vice president of the alumni association, knows that all too well–he baked cookies for the Ronald McDonald House in Richmond. Those few bites of goodness help relieve a little bit of worry and stress for the families who stay at the house, he said. “Giving back can be easy by using the skills you already have. Anyone can come up with all sorts of creative ways to help someplace in the community,” said Lee. It’s the little things that come from a big heart, which always reminds Lee of the Martin Luther King Jr. quote: “Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve.”
5. How fortunate we are.
Longwood’s IT department is full of big ideas of how to give back to their community, but their hearts are even bigger. This holiday season, they have organized two drives: one to collect food for FACES, the Farmville-area food bank and another to collect cash donations for Heifer International, a nonprofit working to eradicate poverty. “We recognize how fortunate we are compared to some others in our community and in the world,” they said. “Being able to give together gives us the sense of fellowship that drives us.”
6. So easy to help so many.
It can be easy, sometimes, to overlook a real need in your community, but Ruth Radzisauskas ’77 sees it every holiday season. A member of the Henrico Christmas Mother Foundation, they annually take more than a thousand applications for gifts for needy children in their own community. “The small part that I do is compounded by so many who help,” she said. “When our recipients leave with two new books for each child, a sweat suit, hat and gloves, two toys each and a box of food and are so visibly thankful, it’s easy to realize how truly blessed I am.”
7. It takes a village.
Joshua Bolt just learned to cruise. And that’s a really big deal for a 13-year-old with cerebral palsy. But he couldn’t have done it without the help of Jason Tsai ’15 and his Phi Mu Delta brothers. “The amount of progress and willpower that Josh shows on a daily basis is inspiring,” said Tsai. “A lot of people don’t realize that the action of walking is falling and catching oneself, which is made very clear by Josh’s disability. He’s come a long way since we first started working with him.” In addition to weekly visits during the school year, Jason and his brothers who live locally make special trips to Buckingham to work with Joshua during the holidays, helping out the family with household chores and physical therapy. “I’m grateful to be a part of something beyond myself and to have the opportunity to serve. It truly takes a village to raise a child,” he said.
8. It’s the right thing to do.
They’re a humble trio: Rena Reynolds, Daphne Norton and Kim Wingo. But together, these three Longwood employees make a bold impact on the lives of others. This holiday season, the hard times caught up to a family at their church. Out of work for two years and medical bills mounting, Jimmie “Doodlebug” Robertson and his wife, Lizzy (pictured), were struggling to make ends meet. Rena, Daphne and Kim stepped in to help, and held a spaghetti supper for the family, raising more than $2,000. “There is no greater blessing than to help a friend and see the community come together,” said Daphne. The family was grateful for the outpouring of community support. “It really lifted my spirits just to see the love and support that people gave us,” said Lizzy.
9. So many things you can do.
A burly police officer down a toy aisle picking out the perfect princess for a little girl’s present, when she tugs on his arm and tells him she’d rather buy something for her mommy. Smiling, he reaches into his own pocket for the money to make the holidays special for her family. In Cumberland County, this scene is commonplace each holiday season, as the sheriff’s department takes dozens of deserving kids to Walmart to shop for gifts. With $100 to spend per child, Sheriff Darrell Hodges ’07 and his deputies make sure each kid have a new set of clothes and a toy to take home. And if they happen to need a little bit extra to get something for mom? Well, a lot of police officers have big hearts. “There are a lot of people of all ages who need help here,” said Hodges. “There are so many things you can do if you just look around and see what’s needed.”
10. What we’re called to do.
For five years, Longwood’s Alpha Alpha Omicron chapter of the national co-ed service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega has participated in the national Scouting For Food drive, with collected food going to the local food bank. The fraternity was founded by Eagle Scouts, and is led locally by Dr. David Coles, Le’Tina Giles, Jeff Halliday and the chapter’s Boy Scout committee chair Rachael Wolf. “I believe service is what we are called to do not only as citizens but as leaders,” said Halliday. “I’m grateful to be in a position to give back, especially when connecting the act with students.”