Thursday, October 22, 2020

MSU students grant wish lists for Christmas

December 6, 2017
Mechanical engineering junior Josh Wojtowiczon and East Lansing resident Leon Strong, 5, play with blocks on Sept. 30, 2016 at Haven House at 121 Whitehills Drive in East Lansing. Haven House provides temporary housing for families until they are able to find permanent housing elsewhere.
Mechanical engineering junior Josh Wojtowiczon and East Lansing resident Leon Strong, 5, play with blocks on Sept. 30, 2016 at Haven House at 121 Whitehills Drive in East Lansing. Haven House provides temporary housing for families until they are able to find permanent housing elsewhere. —
Photo by Nic Antaya | The State News

MSU student organizations get in the Christmas spirit early, by adopting families from the Haven House of East Lansing and granting them their wish list.

Haven House has been providing temporary shelter, food and clothing for homeless families for 34 years. Their housing helps prepare parents for permanent housing while promoting self-sufficiency, stability and financial responsibility, according to their website.

Education senior and Kappa Delta Pi President Danielle Keyes said their organization has had a tradition of adopting a family for Christmas at Haven House for years, before she was even a part of the organization.

Kappa Delta Pi is an international honor society that commits most of their time to education-related volunteering and preparing students to become educators. 

Keyes said their organization volunteers a lot in the community, mainly teaching or tutoring younger groups, and Haven House was something different. 

“One of our goals is to be able to give back to more than just maybe elementary students or just a high school student, to give back to the whole family,” Keyes said. 

According to Haven House Volunteer and Special Projects Coordinator Chequoya Spearman, adopting a family is quite simple and the only thing the family needs to send is a wish list.

“We try our best to make sure the wish lists have enough information so the donors have a good sense of what each member of the family likes and would like for Christmas,” Spearman said in an email. 

Spearman said families do request to remain anonymous, and the donors are unable to meet them personally. 

Keyes said most of the items on their wish lists are necessities like socks, pants, coats and house supplies, but there is also a "want list" that include toys or sports gear.

“Things like that are qualified under the want category versus the need category, but for our organization, personally, we see them all as things we need to donate,” Keyes said. “We donate everything on that list, including the things they specify as not necessary.”

Keyes said their organization creates a massive spreadsheet of what each family member needs and from their 172 members, each person volunteers to buy and donate three to four gifts.

Spearman said the adopted families never look to receive an abundance of gifts, but they are always very grateful and overjoyed.

“Even just one gift to them is more than what they would have received if this program did not exist," Spearman said.

Keyes said because Kappa Delta Pi is so large, they request to adopt a family of five each year. 

“We always do five in a family just because we know that as an organization, we can take on a bigger family than if we were a single volunteer,” she said.  

Microbiology senior and Alpha Chi Sigma Community Outreach Coordinator Alicia Webb, said this is their third year working with Haven House and another way to connect with the community during the holidays. 

This year, the chemistry fraternity adopted a single father who has two elementary girls and a newborn baby. 

“Our goal is just to hopefully provide this family with the best holiday season that they could have,” Webb said. “We hope that this is something that they can remember, not only this year but years to come.”

Webb said the holidays are a hard time for a lot of people and just making this time of the year easier is a step in the right direction. 

“MSU students have made a difference in many ways for our families at Haven House whether it be helping to prepare dinner, being mentors to our children in shelter and interacting with them in the playroom, helping to keep our shelter organized or holding food/clothing drives to help make sure our families have everything they need,” Spearman said. 

Keyes said a lot of times college students don’t know how they can give back to their community, but thanks to this specific drive through Haven House, this is an easier way. 

“Christmas is a time for giving and why not give to a family who has fallen on hard times and so deserving. Once they experience the joy in making Christmas extra special for a family in need, they will want to participate again and again,” Spearman said. 

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