SUNY Cortland donates holiday gifts to local families


Editor's Note: The following article was published by the SUNY Cortland Communications Office.

Students, faculty and staff at SUNY Cortland love to sweeten the holidays for area families.

Yes, the campus community is helping stock local food pantries — including the new SUNY Cortland Cupboard opened recently to serve the College’s student body — and raising money to send aid to relieve the Caribbean and Texas hurricane disasters.

But students, faculty and staff each year also reach out to families in need with toys, clothes and meeting special requests from local youth.

For a third year, Teresa Ripley, secretary I in the Facilities Management Office in Whittaker Hall, accepted a list of families who are clients of the College’s Migrant Education Tutorial and Support Services Program (METS). The list describes the age of children in each family and the type of gift desired by each child, whether a clothing item, electronics, sporting goods or a toy.

Ripley, who coordinates the campus-wide Civil Service Employee Association’s annual toy drive for METS, first reaches out to the campus community before Thanksgiving Break.

“I’m amazed with the generosity of the campus,” said Ripley, noting that individuals, departments, athletic teams and other groups always quickly contact her to be assigned a family to assist.

This year, employees from all reaches of campus once again responded, fulfilling the wishes for 70 youngsters of migrant worker families. That leaves very few households left to assist.

“Once I’ve assigned the volunteers the names to sponsor, I’m done,” Ripley said. “I’ve never had the METS office say that someone hasn’t delivered.”

The individuals and groups drop off their wrapped gifts at the METS Offices in Van Hoesen Hall. METS educators will deliver the goodies to their clients out in the community.

“Some people just want to sponsor one child, some want a family of four children,” Ripley said. By Dec. 7, the drive had accommodated most of the METS families, she said.

“The group that impresses me the most is our softball team,” Ripley said. “They always take 25 children each year. I’m so impressed with that because these are our students.”

Tina Aversano has collected donations for the METS gift program on behalf of the Division of Institutional Advancement. Aversano, manager of scholarships and donor relations, purchased the holiday largesse for four children of one family, ages 9 to 16, and organized a small office gift-wrapping party.

By chance, she also met a past recipient behind the sales counter of a local store.

“The cashier, a young woman in her 20s, saw that I had a list and asked if I was supporting a family this year,” Aversano said. “I replied ‘yes.’

“Her next comment was, ‘I was one of those families,’ and that when she could, she would return the favor,” Aversano said.

“She said that for a few years, her mother couldn’t afford gifts as she had three children and times were tough. Her mom would tell them that Santa’s sleigh got stuck at the bottom of their hill and couldn’t make it up so they went without gifts. Then one year, a group delivered gifts to their doorstep and it made their year. She and her siblings were so happy and it didn’t matter what they received, just that they received something on Christmas.”

Other campus groups volunteered to accept donated toys on behalf of Toys for Tots, a national charity of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

These sites included the University Police Department in Whittaker Hall and the Lynne Parks ’68 SUNY Cortland Alumni House, which have final drop off dates of Monday, Dec. 11, and Saturday, Dec. 9, respectively.

Through Dec. 15, the Parks Alumni House also serves as a drop-off location for non-perishable food and personal care donations to the new SUNY Cortland Cupboard, said Shaunna Arnold-Plank, interim general manager.

University Police Lt. Mary Murphy has offered to pick up toys from academic offices that are remote from the police station. She said that unwrapped toys are being accepted in the Whittaker Hall lobby.

“Our department in general is trying to get more active with the community, both on campus and off campus,” Murphy said. “We’ve always participated in community policing but we wanted to take it one step further and get more involved.”

College athletes always want to get in on the action of making the season special for local youngsters.

On Dec. 2, the men’s and women’s basketball teams and men’s and women’s hockey teams competed at home and collected approximately 100 stuffed animals to be given out to children by the City of Cortland during the annual Santa at Waterworks program, according to Jaclyn Lawrence ’12, assistant director of athletics for events, marketing and development.

“Every child who gets their picture taken with Santa receives a stuffed animal,” Lawrence noted. The program takes place every Saturday during December at the festively adorned municipal water pumping station.

Additionally, during the annual Silent Night basketball games on Dec. 5, the basketball teams collected toys from fans at the door and that night all student athletes at SUNY Cortland contributed $1 to support the local Toys for Tots drive, Lawrence said.