By Elizabeth Allen and Rosanne Fohn
|Shown with some of the 1,431 pounds of food collected for the San Antonio Food Bank are Special Events Council members (left to right) D. J. Smith, Michelle Southwell and Janice Smith. |
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The spirit of giving was strong this holiday season at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio. Along with the annual Gifts for Children campaign that provides toys for hospitalized children, there were many other demonstrations of generosity, including staff members adopting patient families, children giving to patients, patients giving to one another, and collections of food and clothing.Gifts for Children
Approximately 4,300 presents were collected for the Health Science Center’s Gifts for Children campaign, an annual service project in which faculty, staff and students bring in unwrapped toys to give to hospitalized children.
“We had too many volunteers to count,” said Gifts for Children coordinator Patti Lairsey, academic coordinator in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery. Volunteer coordinators collected the presents in their departments and then put them under a holiday tree on the day of the Health Science Center’s holiday party.
|Patti Lairsey (in red) stands with three student volunteers who helped count and bag up the 4,289 presents donated by UT Health Science Center San Antonio faculty, staff and students for hospitalized children. |
After the party, many more volunteers helped count and bag up the toys to get them ready to deliver over to the children. Programs that benefited included:
- University Hospital
- Children’s Hospital of San Antonio
- Community Pediatric/Children with AIDS
- Children’s Health Center – University Hospital Downtown
- PREMIEre Program for premature babies
- Methodist Child Life
- Cancer Therapy & Research Center
- Regional Academic Health Center teaching hospitals in Harlingen
“Gifts for Children wouldn’t be the success it is without our core group and the many volunteers,” said Lairsey, who has managed Gifts for Children for 18 years. “They bagged up 4,289 gifts after the party.”CTRC patients give to one another
At the Cancer Therapy & Research Center, Gerardo Medina, director of research nursing, suggested that his staff forego the annual gift exchange and instead “adopt” some families of patients in need. One patient, a single mother, wrote “bed” on her wish list. It would replace her air mattress.
Medina knew of another patient, Terra Bibb, whose husband, Jeremy, is a co-owner with his family in a Mattress Firm franchise. Medina asked Elizabeth Diaz, PA, a specialist in the CTRC director’s office, to see if the Bibbs could give them a discount on a bed.
Absolutely not, the Bibbs said. They would provide the bed — frame, mattress, pillows and all — for free. Diaz said the Bibbs seemed honored to have the opportunity to provide the bed, as though it were a gift to them to be able to help others.Children helping children
Adding to the bounty of gift-giving at the CTRC, three children took it upon themselves to play Santa, bringing in stacks of toys they’d gathered in a neighborhood toy drive. The operation was spearheaded by 10-year-old Jack Weitman, the son of Steve Weitman, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Institute for Drug Development at the CTRC, and his wife, Jody. With the help of two other neighborhood children, Jack distributed flyers to all 82 houses in their neighborhood.
The neighbors enthusiastically responded and the children collected more than 50 toys — doubling their original goal of 25. The toys helped fill out the wish lists of the adopted families with plenty left to distribute throughout the year, augmenting the Gifts for Children supply.Feeding the hungry
The Health Science Center’s Special Events Council hosted two food drives — one in November and one in December — through the San Antonio Food Bank.
"Thank you for joining in our efforts to fight hunger and feed hope this holiday season," said Jennifer Carter, food and fund drive coordinator at the San Antonio Food Bank. "Your organization donated a total of 1,431 pounds of food. This will provide approximately 1,117 meals for individuals in need throughout Southwest Texas."
“We appreciate so much the donations we received over the two-month period,” said Janice Smith, assistant to the dean in the Graduate Dean’s office, who coordinated the SEC food drive. “We could not have accomplished this without the help of the multitude of people who donated food.”
Many others assisted, including SEC president Mary Yanes, and members Eileen Kleffner and Loretta Edwards. Yanes is a web specialist in Academic Technology Services, Kleffner is academic programs coordinator in the Department of Surgery and Edwards is academic programs coordinator in the Department of Radiology.
Departments with high donations and their coordinators include:
Haven for Hope blanket and clothing drive
- Cancer Therapy & Research Center — Melissa Kyzar, manager of grants and contracts in the office of the director;
- Dental School — D. J. Smith, administrative assistant-senior in the Office of the Dental Dean;
- Department of Psychiatry — Espie Rangel, accounting coordinator-intermediate;
- Office of the President — Cindi Adcock, administrative assistant-associate;
- Institutional Review Board — Marcie Isaacs, research compliance coordinator;
- School of Nursing — Michelle Southwell, executive assistant to the vice dean of projects, marketing and grants in the School of Nursing’s Clinical Enterprise; Melissa Mireles, development assistant-intermediate in the Office of Institutional Advancement, assigned to the School of Nursing; and Arikah Kiyaani-McClary, business administrator; and
- South Texas Research Facility — Iris Facundo, research coordinator-senior at the Institute of Biotechnology
Also during the holidays, the School of Health Professions’ Advisory Council to Staff conducted a drive to collect new or gently used blankets and clothing for residents of Haven for Hope.
Forty-six blankets, 33 scarves, 35 hats, 38 pairs of gloves and 90 pairs of socks were collected for Haven for Home residents.
Mary Muraira, academic programs coordinator, and Vanessa Torres, admissions officer-senior, coordinated the drive. They both work in the Office of Advising, Admissions and Recruitment Support, formerly called the Welcome Center.