Rutgers–Camden Gives Back at the Holidays

Numerous charitable holiday endeavors are backed by faculty, staff and students

Rutgers–Camden students worked together on the RU Warm project to collect bags of warm clothing for local residents in need to be distributed by the Salvation Army Kroc Center in Camden. From left, Dawn Garlic, Kroc Center volunteer services manager; Jahmara Smith; Jasmine Wilson; Pamela Maynor, Kroc Center co-administrator and pastor; Kyle Martin Jurilla; and Leanne Hall.

Dec. 16, 2021

By Sam Starnes

From classes to clubs to athletic teams and beyond, a rich tapestry of Rutgers University–Camden faculty, staff and students are stepping up this holiday season to support numerous charitable projects.

“Rutgers–Camden gives back to our surrounding community year-round through many civic engagement projects, but at the holidays, the true spirit of giving on campus is exceptional,” says Rutgers–Camden Chancellor Antonio D. Tillis. “As an anchor institution in the city of Camden, it thrills me to see how generous our campus is during the holiday season in supporting organizations that do fantastic work helping those in need.”

Shining examples of these myriad efforts are the semester-long projects in two sections of an Organizational Behavior class taught by Melissa Fender, a part-time lecturer of management in the Rutgers School of Business–Camden. Fender’s 51 students worked in small teams that developed 11 charitable projects for nine nonprofit organizations that culminated in donations at the end of the semester.

Jahmara Smith, a junior marketing major from Camden, says her team partnered with the Salvation Army Kroc Center in Camden and developed a strategy and hosted a variety of events to collect donations of hats, gloves, scarves, coats, sweaters, shoes and other warm clothing for Camden residents in need. The project, dubbed RU Warm, used social media, posted flyers on campus and made announcements in their classes to publicize the effort, which collected many pieces of warm clothing and more than $200 in donations.

“It felt good helping my community, and it felt good to see the people at the Kroc Center,” Smith says. “They were so excited when we delivered the donations.”

Another team in Fender’s classes worked with the Kroc Center to collect toys for the center’s annual toy drive.

“I have never had a project that is as meaningful and active as this one,” says Sasha Shukeylo, a junior marketing major from Cherry Hill. “Not only am I doing something good for the children around Rutgers, but I am also learning about the process that goes behind a toy collection.”

Dawn Garlic, volunteer services manager for the Kroc Center, says the contributions of Rutgers–Camden groups are an immense help during the holidays.

“Rutgers University–Camden is a blessing to the Salvation Army Kroc Center,” Garlic says. “The students’ projects have consisted of fundraising during our Red Kettle campaign, securing toys for local families, gathering warm items for our neighbors in need and more.”

Melissa Fender

Other organizations and groups benefitted by projects directed by the students in Fender’s classes include Volunteers of America Delaware Valley, the Food Bank of South Jersey, Shoes for Your Soul, Cathedral Kitchen, the Camden County Pop-Up Library, and organizations helping Hurricane Ida victims in New Jersey and Afghan refugees.

“I get a lot of joy from this,” says Fender, who has taught in the School of Business–Camden for seven years and has run the charitable projects in past semesters. “It is way more meaningful to the students than just writing a term paper. We are able to help people.”

Additional charitable projects this holiday season on campus are not limited to but include Rutgers–Camden Athletics, which reached out to student-athletes, coaches and staff members who stepped up to support the Kroc Center toy drive through donations; the Muslim Students Association, which hosted a drive for Afghan refugees; and the Student Wellness Advisory Board and campus chapter of the American Medical Students Association, two student organizations that partnered to host a collection drive for the Camden County Women’s Center.

Patrick Wallace, a 2002 Rutgers–Camden alumnus who is associate director of the Campus Center and Student Involvement, says these projects and many more are a long-standing tradition on campus.

“Our students and student organizations, from undergraduate to law as well as our fraternities and sororities, have always played a key role in the campus’ deep commitment of giving back and paying it forward through donation drives, community service and collaborations with community partners and organizations, especially during the holidays,” Wallace says.

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