WCCC Students Spread Holiday Cheer at Home and Abroad

December 20, 2016

The students of Washington County Community College have been hard at work organizing seasonal events and rallying to support community causes over the past few weeks. Students in one class assisted the Solidarity Harvest in collecting enough stuffing for families in need at Thanksgiving while students in another class held a party for the residents of Washington Place. Yet another group of students collected gifts and cards for soldiers from the area that aren’t able to spend the holidays with their families.

The Solidarity Harvest is a statewide program that aims to give full holiday meals to families in need at Thanksgiving—particularly families with workers that have been recently laid off. Of the approximately 1,300 families that receive meals through the program, around 400 are in Washington County.

This year, the local Solidarity Harvest coordinator, Penni Theriault, realized she was desperately in need of boxes of stuffing. The program aims to provide two boxes of stuffing to each home, and with less than a month to go before the distribution, they were still a few hundred short of even being able to give away one box in each basket.

The students of Rhonda French’s online supervisory management class recognized the dilemma and opted to help the Solidarity Project as a learning experience. The students set up competitions in local elementary schools, created flyers and drop boxes, and solicited for donations wherever possible. Within a few weeks, over 1,000 boxes were collected through their efforts—which, combined with the amount raised elsewhere, was more than enough to meet the program’s goals.

Students in a separate supervisory management class were assigned to develop their own service learning projects, and both groups in the class opted for projects with holiday themes. For one group, the selected project was to hold a holiday party at Washington Place. Students spent dozens of hours planning the party, which included holiday BINGO with special cards, crafted ornaments, and a visit from Santa Claus.

“If you could only see the joy it brought to the residents,” said French. The personal touches added by the students made the event memorable and spectacular. Santa read names from his list to learn who was naughty and nice, and residents were invited to have their photos taken with him. “So often during Christmas time, we focus on the children—and rightfully so—but all ages enjoy Christmas.”

Another group of students chose to focus on those who aren’t able to spend the season with their families as a result of military service. Five individuals from the community were chosen and their families contacted surreptitiously. The students learned from the family members what their favorite treats were and what they might appreciate as gifts, and then they set about creating personalized gift boxes for each person. Accompanying each box were additional cards signed by members of the community, including handmade cards by children—meant to be handed out by the serviceperson to the other members of their unit to spread holiday cheer.

“It’s a little reminder of home,” said French, adding that the packages also included fake Maine snowballs.

After each of the projects they participated in, students wrote papers reflecting on what they had learned during their experiences. The projects enable students to engage meaningful in the application of managerial skills.