Take a minute and think about all of the holiday traditions enjoyed by families across the globe. You may look forward to gathering with family and friends, baking that delicious pie recipe that’s been passed down for generations or simply having time off from a busy schedule.
While it’s important to embrace all of the joys that the holiday season brings, it’s also a time to reflect. A time to give back to others who may be less fortunate. That’s why the UMaine Alumni Association and Foundation continued their tradition of participating in the giving tree program through Christmas is for Kids. This program is organized by a Maine non-profit organization called Penquis and focuses on the needs of children throughout the state.
The act of service is nothing new to Kathy Hill ’16, Buchanan Alumni House Manager, which is why the decision to participate in this program eight years ago came with no hesitation.
“We wanted to do something a little different and we were like, what about getting our own tree? So we did it,” said Hill.
The program helps underserved children in Maine and collects their name, age, and gifts that they request. The Alumni House staff then decorate a holiday tree with tags acknowledging each child in the program, and if you look below, there are gifts including a bike, sweaters, and boots for the winter. According to Hill, this year has been extra special because the Alumni Association and Foundation wanted to give more.
“This year was exciting because the names flew out the doors and for the first time I had to go and get more names,” said Hill. “Once I got 10 more names, those names were gone in an hour.”
Tom Peaco ’88, President of the UMaine Alumni Association, has performed great work over the years in the non-profit sector and as his first holiday season at the Alumni Association approaches, he’s elated knowing that he’s a part of a giving community.
“My career has been in the non-profit sector and I’ve seen countless examples of people doing extraordinary things to help other people,” says Peaco. “Although this is a little different than the non-profit work I’ve done in the past, the spirit is still there and I think it really speaks to the University of Maine.”
Various opportunities for giving back present themselves throughout the calendar year, however ensuring that one particular child has a better Christmas experience each year creates a different level of awareness.
“Most of the requests are simple,” says Hill. “Sometimes it’s just warm clothes and those are the ones that really get you. They’re not asking for the latest video game, they’re asking for something basic and I think that’s super important.”
After all is said and done, the University of Maine assists in delivering the items to Penquis and the gifts will be distributed to each child for Christmas. It’s a holiday tradition that Hill is proud to have introduced to Buchanan, and one that staff from both the Alumni Association and Foundation look forward to every year.
“Service to me is just giving a part of yourself to someone who needs it at the moment,” said Hill. “Kids are the most innocent and deserve to be kept away from the negatives that the world brings and this is a way to help with that.”
If you’re looking to donate to any programs through Penquis, click here for more information.