Columbus State Efforts Brighten Holidays for Hundreds of Families

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Hundreds of Columbus-area families will be able to enjoy the holidays more this year, thanks to a successful Cougars for Causes Drive on both Columbus State University campuses that wrapped up recently.

Students, faculty and staff donated nearly 1,800 items, mostly leaving them in colorful bins on both main and RiverPark campuses during the month-long effort, now in its second year.

“Many campus groups have been doing their part for years to help give back to our community during the holidays,” said University Police Sgt. Brett Stanelle, who coordinated the 2012 drive. “As we saw last year, smaller efforts can fall short because of limited participation, but those groups have a lot to offer as part of a larger drive.”

This year, Cougars for Causes collected 422 coloring/activity books and packs of crayons, 139 stuffed animals, 648 non-perishable food items, 344 toys, 175 personal hygiene items and 52 other goods, including candy, blankets, socks, gloves and shoes.

University Police got the Cougars for Causes effort rolling in 2011, mainly as a means to collect stuffed animals to distribute to children hospitalized or otherwise in need as part of the larger Blue Christmas effort staged by Columbus-area law enforcement.

This year’s Blue Christmas distribution, starting Dec. 19, will benefit again from Cougars for Causes in 2012, as will several other entities, including:

  • Feeding the Valley, a local food bank.
  • The local Ronald McDonald House, where toys and other items will be delivered to support families residing there while their children seek medical treatment.
  • Santa's Castle, a Fort Benning program supporting children in military families.
  • The Boys and Girls Club of Columbus.
  • Damascus Way, a 56-bed shelter for families operated by the Valley Rescue Mission.
  • Open Door Community House, an umbrella for ministries dedicated to job-training, helping the homeless and more.
  • St. Anne Community Outreach, which serves Muscogee County families, including single parents, elderly, displaced families, recovering drug or alcohol addicts, victims of crime/abuse, medically ill and mentally or physically disabled.

Nine Cougars for Causes collection bins across both campuses have been filling up with donations since mid-November. Hundreds more canned goods and non-perishable food items poured in thanks to a longtime effort by CSU Human Resources to collect such items from employees arriving for a popular annual holiday social. Athletics organized a Teddy Bear Toss at two basketball games, giving free admission to fans who donated stuffed animals. Some campus entities focused on specific needs: Enrollment Management specialized in coloring books and crayons, while the Cunningham Center became the location to drop off items for the elderly, such as gloves, socks and fleece throws. CSU’s Logistics Services coordinated pickup and storage of all donations with University Police.

This year, entities beyond campus also asked to be involved, resulting in participation by Columbus-area Dollar General stores and the CVS Pharmacy on Hilton Avenue.

“The spirit of giving is strongest around the holidays, as is evident by this year’s success,” Stanelle said. “Cougars for Causes hopes to become a permanent entity on campus, organizing events, drives and awareness programs throughout the year.”