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Campus & Community

8 Ways to Do Good With Terps This Holiday Season

From Toy Drives to Volunteering on a Farm, Students, Faculty and Alums Make Giving Back Easy

By Sala Levin ’10

illustration of people putting gifts into a box and planting in the dirt

From teddy bear drives to chemo care packages, Terps can give back to the community through a variety of UMD-related organizations.

Illustration from vectorjuice/Freepik

Between the targeted ads on your Instagram feed, your kids’ pleas for a new PlayStation and the crowds at your local mall, you might be feeling dispirited by the crass consumerism of late November and December. The best antidote? Helping others in need.

Here, Maryland Today offers eight opportunities for Terps to give back this season, all with a University of Maryland connection.  

Supporting Kids and Families

The Department of Entomology continues its annual teddy bear drive benefitting A Wider Circle, a nonprofit organization that offers services and essential goods to people in poverty in the Washington, D.C., area. Don’t feel restricted to a teddy bear: Stuffed critters of all varieties will be accepted, as long as they’re new. Donations can be dropped off through Dec. 8 in room 4112 of the Plant Sciences Building.

The Department of Resident Life is hosting its 27th annual Terp Toy Drive, benefitting the city of College Park Youth and Family Services, which distributes the toys at elementary schools, Prince George’s County sites, youth organizations and health clinics. Last year, students, staff and faculty donated 810 gifts to help local children during the holiday season. New toys can be dropped off at any residence hall service desk through Dec. 8, or you can buy a toy online through the drive’s Amazon wish list

The University of Maryland Police Department and Maryland Athletics are partnering up for the annual Toys for Tots drive. Fans attending the Dec. 10 women’s basketball game or the Dec. 12 men’s basketball game  can donate a new, unwrapped children’s toy. Terps can also drop off a toy at UMPD's Pocomoke Building at 7569 Baltimore Avenue until Dec. 12. 

During the pandemic, Lindsay Gill ’06, a mother of three, founded the D.C.-based Napkin Network to help other moms. The organization accepts donations of diapers, formula, breast pumps, and other baby and basic hygiene products. This year, the Napkin Network opened a “Napkin Nook” in the Westfield Montgomery shopping mall, where parents in need can pick up these essential items.

The honors organization ODK is hosting a book drive benefitting the Maryland Book Bank, a nonprofit organization committed to cultivating literacy in children from under-resourced neighborhoods. Novels, memoirs, chapter books for kids, board books—volumes of all kinds are welcome. The bin for drop-offs is available through Dec. 8 in 2108 Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Building, between the two plants across from the front desk. Books must be in good condition. CDs, DVDs, encyclopedia sets, magazines, textbooks older than 5 years and damaged books are not accepted.

Making a Difference in the Community

In 2020, Oneyda Hernandez ’23 saw a patient from the chiropractic practice where she worked appear on the local news, talking to a reporter about the economic difficulties they were facing. In response, Hernandez and her siblings and cousins began supplying the patient’s family with essentials. That effort soon expanded into the Audelia Community Response Team, named for Hernandez’s late mother—a group of volunteers that delivers groceries and other necessities to people across Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. Monetary donations, food donations to their food pantry and donations of time to volunteer are all accepted.

On Dec. 9, community members from the University of Maryland, Bowie State University and the nearby area will come together for the 2nd Lt. Richard Collins Day of Service, held on the birthday of the Bowie State student who was killed on UMD’s campus in 2017. Participants will volunteer at Strength 2 Love II Farm, a 1.5-acre farm in Baltimore that offers workforce development and employment to people returning from incarceration.

Offering Hope to Those With Medical Needs

After 2018 grad Matthew Hollister’s dad, James, died in 2015 from brain cancer, his family realized that they still had thousands of dollars’ worth of usable medications. The Hollisters soon learned that some $2 billion worth of prescription drugs go to waste every year in the U.S. In 2015, Matthew and a friend started the James Hollister Wellness Foundation, which receives donations of medicines from individuals, organizations or companies and distributes them to people in developing countries.

After Letters and Sciences’ assistant director, Ashleigh Brown, completed treatment for breast cancer in 2017, she wanted to create a way for people affected by the disease to connect with and support one another. She founded the Pink P.A.I.R. (Providing Awareness, Inspiration, and Radiance) Project, whose mission is to provide a positive, encouraging and supportive community for people recently diagnosed with, currently in treatment for, or in recovery/post-treatment for breast cancer. Volunteers can create chemo care packages, write cards for cancer patients and make snack baskets for medical staff.

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.