MTSU's Little Raiders gift-giving campaign wrapped up a successful 2014 effort with a lively party Friday (Dec. 12) at the University Police Department for some of the Blue Raider community's needy youngsters.
The annual effort targets the children of low-income MTSU students as well as the children of parents receiving assistance from the local Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Program. This year's effort gave 27 Little Raiders a brighter Christmas.
"It was a great event," said University Police Sgt. Vergena Forbes, a community policing officer and organizer of the campaign. "A big thank you to all of the volunteers who helped with the party, and the individual and corporate donors for making the entire campaign a success."
The University Police Department, June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students and Campus Recreation Center partnered with the Golden Key Honor Society, MTSU OWLS (Older Wiser Learners) and MT Lambda to sponsor the campaign.
Members of the campus community were asked to put on their Secret Santa hats and "adopt" a Little Raider by picking a numbered ornament hanging on three Christmas trees set up across campus in recent weeks. The ornaments listed a needy child's age, gender, clothing size and wish list.
And for the second straight year, the effort received a significant boost from the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 54, which donated $1,050 that was used to purchase gifts for six children whose ornaments weren't selected and also provide additional food for Friday's Christmas party.
All of the children, along with their parents and guardians, were invited to Friday's party at the police headquarters on East Main Street, where they enjoyed food, fellowship and a special visit from Santa himself (Rich Kershaw, director of MTSU Student Programming) as well as a few special volunteer elves, including Forbes.
"He was a great Santa!" Forbes said of Kershaw. "He had the snow-white beard and everything."
Forbes praised Dollar General for allowing placement of collection boxes at two local stores that enabled the campaign to give the Little Raiders stuffed Christmas stockings this year. Other key donors included Kroger on Middle Tennessee Boulevard, Domino's, Little Caesar's on South Rutherford Boulevard, Slick Pig, the June Anderson Center, Phillips Bookstore, MTSU Construction and Renovation, Campus Recreation and Golden Key Honor Society.
Golden Key members Brittany Benefield, Laura Kissel, Tiffany Graziano, Yvonne Ejorh, Brittany Smith and Kiara Rainer volunteered to decorate and assist with the party, some dressed as Santa's elves.