For children, waking up to gifts from Santa can be magical. But for families in transition, there may be few items under a sparse holiday tree.
“I love Christmas. I remember walking up and seeing all those gifts,” said Kailah Joy-Alford, a sophomore at Rowan College of South Jersey and executive vice president of the Student Government Association.
“It is important that all the children in our community get to experience that feeling.”
Joy-Alford, along with association Secretary Guneet Kaur and members Jaeden McMurty, Tyler Belvin and Aidan Tomlinson, are part of the group’s season of giving, which includes a Christmas tree with special snowflakes to make sure 151 needy children have three gifts each under the tree. Each gift comes with a holiday ornament.
“The kids think the gifts came from their parents,” said association advisor and Student Life Administrator Diane Hare. “We give them to the parents ahead of time and they can wrap the presents themselves. Our staff, faculty and students take a snowflake from the tree that lists the sex and age of the child. They bring the gifts back by Dec. 9 with an ornament.
“I’m from India and have never celebrated Christmas,” said Kaur, a freshman pre-law student who hopes to attend Rutgers Law School. “We celebrated the Hindu holiday of Diwali, where we gave presents to our family and worshiped God.
“It’s a joy to be part of something that’s special and giving happiness to other people,” she added of the gift-giving effort.
“It’s important to give back to the community,” said Joy-Alford, a political science major who was a summer intern at the Washington, D.C., office of Congressman Donald Norcross. She hopes to attend one of three universities there: Howard, American or George Washington.
Association members have been giving for the last 14 years.
“We are excited to once again partner up with Rowan College of South Jersey on their annual season of giving. Every year, we help local families with gifts and food for the holidays,” said Crystal Noboa, director of the Center for People in Transition.
“Our mission is to help displaced homemakers achieve self-sufficiency through life-skills training, education or vocational training, advocacy and supportive services,” she added. “Becoming self-sufficient is a challenging task and having financial support during the holidays puts them one step closer to achieving their goals.”
The last two gift-giving efforts were conducted virtually because of COVID, according to Hare, the association’s advisor for 12 years, who said this year’s version will be hybrid.
Readers who would like to make a monetary donation can go to RCSJ.edu/SeasonOfGiving and follow the prompts. To choose an ornament featuring a child’s gift request, visit the Student Life Office of the College Center in Deptford, Suite 203.