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For some children, it’s hard to distinguish between wants and needs, but as the winter season comes around and the hustle and bustle of gift shopping takes over, both of those lists are being fulfilled around campus.

Staff and faculty in several University offices are pitching in so that area families will have something to unwrap on Christmas morning and food on the table throughout the season. The spirit of the season comes in two forms:  holding food drives and adopting families.

“It’s pretty heartening to see that we have provided everything on their need and wish lists,” says Julie Haarr, conservation social sciences administrative assistant who coordinated the College of Natural Resources’ adopt-a-family last year with Vanessa Dobbins, the college’s administrative assistant. “I am proud of the generous giving spirit we have in this college.”

Like many good traditions, the origins are fuzzy, but the spirit lives on in the college as it prepares to gather presents to make three families’ holiday season better this year.

“It’s something we’ve always done in our college,” says Dobbins, adding it was a tradition 22 years ago when she was hired. “We’re like a family in our college, and this brings us closer together.”

Over the years, the college has adopted several families over the course of the winter season.  Sometimes those families come from the college’s staff, faculty or students, or sometimes they come from Moscow Christmas for Kids. This year, the college is supporting a former colleague and two Moscow families.

“We always have really good participation,” says Haarr. “It’s great to see a professor who you think of as gruff come in with a bagful of clothes and toys. People surprise you.”

Last year’s drive was so successful that besides fulfilling the wish, want and needs lists, the college was able to provide gift certificates to Winco for a special meal. While the shopping is fun, Dobbins and Haarr agree the wrapping party is probably the most rewarding. Staff and faculty donate wrapping paper and ribbon and take turns stopping in for cider and snacks to wrap a package or two.

In the College of Letters Arts and Social Sciences, the office staff members have adopted two children for the holiday season.

It’s a time for us to come together and remember what the holidays are really about,” says Alisa Goolsby, administrative assistant and spirit of giving organizer,.”

In addition to gifts for the children, the office staff members help the entire family with holiday meal certificates from local grocery stores. This tradition began in 2008, when staff members were looking for a way to use the winnings from the Homecoming office decoration competition – and adopting children for the season seemed like the perfect use.

“The support was very enthusiastic,” says Goolsby. “Everyone was excited and went above and beyond in the participation.”

Goolsby carried the idea over from the Registrar’s Office, who also adopts several children for the season through the Moscow Christmas for Kids.

“It’s really cool to see people you know everyday in a business setting come in with donations and see them in different light,” says Eliza Browning, who is coordinating the office effort this year.

While no one is required to bring in donations, Browning says people look forward to giving what they can. This year, the office supporting two families -- a total of five children. While their first mission is to purchase clothing needs, staff members also enjoy purchasing toys and wrapping the presents.

Also in the spirit of the season, College of Law faculty members are giving students an extra incentive to share the giving spirit during the Phi Delta Alpha law fraternity food drive. Professor Benjamin Beard brought in a certain amount of food, and students who match or exceed his donations were exempt from answering questions in his property law class.

“I took that class last year, and it’s very nice to not be called on,” says Matthew Starr, marshal at Phi Alpha Delta and food drive coordinator.

Professor Angelique Eaglewoman also made exemptions from answering questions for students in her class who brought in food. While the incentives certainly did help, Starr says students from all classes donated to the food drive both in food and in money, and the winning class is treated to a breakfast or lunch on the fraternity.

The food will be taken to the Moscow Food Bank.

Tradition will also continue for those on campus who would like to donate to the chamber’s Christmas For Kids program, as they will have a tree in front of the Commons Bookstore again this year. It will be up Monday, Nov. 28, through Wednesday, Dec. 14. The VandalStore in Boise and Moscow will also be accepting donations of unwrapped, new toys for Toys For Tots.