Outreach by Gillings students brings holiday cheer

December 15, 2015

Students at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health recently coordinated three separate drives to promote holiday spirit in the local community.

HPM (Photo by Cathy Padgett)

Health policy and management students pose with their winning box of donations. (Photo by Cathy Padgett)

In mid-November, the School’s student government and the Department of Health Policy and Management student council collaborated on a food drive.

Project leaders spurred a friendly competition among the School’s eight departments by placing individual donation boxes in each unit. At the end of the weeklong drive, student government representatives delivered 528 pounds of donations to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. According to Food Bank calculations, that amounted to 453 individual meals.

“We were pleased that we successfully got the word out to students, staff and faculty during this busy time of the year,” said Kristin Voltzke, a graduate student of health policy and management who led communications efforts for the drive. “The competition seemed to spur donations, with health policy and management students collecting the most items and the Department of Nutrition coming in second.”

A T-Rex guards the Toys for Tots donation box.

A T-Rex guards the Toys for Tots donation box in the School’s Armfield Atrium.

In December, strategically placed bins appeared to await donations to Toys for Tots. For this initiative, the health policy and management department partnered with the Orange County (N.C.) Department of Social Services. As of Dec. 14, the two collection boxes were overflowing with cheerfully colored toys destined to brighten the holidays of local children.

Catie Venable, a graduate student pursuing a dual master’s degree in public health and business administration, was responsible for spreading the word about the toy drive. “We love when the whole School gets involved,” she said.

The third student-led drive centered on an “Angel Tree” overseen by ENVRSO, the student organization of the environmental sciences and engineering department. Each year, ENVRSO partners with the Orange County (N.C.) Family Resources Center to provide gifts of toys, clothing and other needed items to local, underserved families. Members of the Gillings School community may choose a tree ornament – which holds information about a child, including age, clothing size and special requests or needs – and then purchase a related gift.

Zoey Frolking sorts through one of the many overflowing bags of Angel Tree gifts.

Zoey Frolking sorts through the many overflowing bags of Angel Tree gifts.

“All the gift requests were met this year,” said Zoey Frolking, a graduate student in the environmental sciences and engineering department. “In fact, the first round of ornaments with requests went so fast, we had to contact our partner and double the original number!”

Frolking, in her second year at the Gillings School, said the Angel Tree is a tradition that she and co-organizers Cataia Ives and Virginia Bass were glad to continue.

“The project being an ENVRSO tradition made it easy for me to organize, despite this being a hectic time of year with exams,” she said. “Overall, with tremendous help from the Resources Center, this was a low-work, high-reward effort.”

With exams over and the holidays approaching, Frolking’s only concern was that the gifts might not all fit into one car — not a bad problem to have when your goal is to spread happiness at the holidays.

Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or dpesci@unc.edu

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