In this season of giving, Wheeling Jesuit University employees and students will make the lives of many a little brighter this Christmas.
Thanks to the work of students, employees and athletes, the university’s Service for Social Action Office reports hundreds of Ohio Valley residents will be impacted from the many giving projects sponsored by groups across Wheeling Jesuit’s campus.
“I am grateful to the many students and employees who have taken time to help others in our community this Christmas season. Our mission calls all of us at Wheeling Jesuit to be men and women in service to others and once again this year, we are living out that mission,” said Rev. James Fleming, S.J., WJU president.
Since Thanksgiving, Wheeling Jesuit groups have hosted a number of events and collections, all to benefit local community partners. Everything collected has been donated to a number of local agencies, such as Catholic Charities of West Virginia, Laughlin Memorial Chapel, Neighbors Helping Neighbors food drive, St. John’s Home for Children and Florence Crittenton Services.
“This is a time when everyone wants to give back to make someone else’s Christmas a little brighter. So many of our students and employees make this a part of their Christmas giving tradition. And, it’s part of our mission – it’s who we are,” said Colleen Ryan-Mayrand, director of the Service for Social Action Center.
Ryan-Mayrand said there were giving trees located around campus, as well as WJU students presenting gifts to the young people at the HESS (Help Enrich Someone Special) Mentoring Program’s Christmas party. WJU students presented their middle or high school mentees with a gift. Each Wednesday the group meets at Wheeling Jesuit, where WJU students help the local young people with homework, as well as doing educational activities and having fun.
More than 100 gifts – from socks, hats, toys and clothing – were collected through her office’s efforts, Ryan-Mayrand said. The items were distributed to area agencies and individuals, she added.
Students held a dance Dec. 2 to raise money to buy school supplies for children in El Salvador. Wheeling Jesuit Arrupe Scholars will deliver those supplies when they visit the country for a service trip during the holiday break. Ryan-Mayrand noted that students from other local schools – Bishop Donahue High School and Our Lady of Peace Grade School – have partnered with WJU students to raise funds to help this project as well.
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She explained that food drives were held by both employees and students with the donations being given to food pantries in the Wheeling area. Those items will be used to make food baskets that will be distributed to families around Wheeling.
“Gratitude and generosity are at the heart of our Jesuit Catholic mission, and sharing with others is an important form of service. Year after year our students and employees have collected toys and clothing for the boys and girls of Wheeling who wouldn’t otherwise receive gifts this Christmas. This loving habit of giving is itself a reason to rejoice this Advent,” said James Brogan, director of Campus Ministry and Mission and Identity.
More than a hundred toys were collected by WJU’s Administrative Council and men’s lacrosse team. During the Council’s annual Christmas luncheon, employees were asked to donate a toy.
Members of the lacrosse team also brought toys they purchased to the luncheon. Members of the team went to local stores recently to purchase toys in what has become an annual service project for the team.
“The toy drive is a long standing tradition of Administrative Council that brings all employees together to celebrate the holiday season and give back to people in the area. All of us at Wheeling Jesuit are happy to support Catholic Charities again this year,” said Becky Forney, chair of WJU’s Administrative Council.
A representative from Catholic Charities was at the luncheon on Dec. 9 to collect all the donated toys. They will be distributed to children throughout the Wheeling area.
“It says a lot about our students and their commitment to being men and women for and with others that they took time out of the busiest part of their semester to give back,” said Kaitlyn Buehlmann of WJU’s Service Office. “I’m incredibly proud of the efforts of our students and employees who have taken part in these collections.”