Community organizations give back during a holiday season of need

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As the holidays near and the pandemic surges across the United States, communities across the country are struggling.

Lehigh community leaders have stepped up by organizing holiday drives that benefit numerous organizations throughout communities in Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley.

Community Service Office Holiday Hope Chest

The annual Holiday Hope Chest event moved virtual this year. This event, run through the Community Service Office’s tutoring program, is focused on purchasing holiday gifts for children in their homework club. Donations wrapped up on Nov. 13, and they are currently in the process of sorting the gifts that were sent to them. 

This year, rather than having donors physically purchase the gifts, each homework club student created an Amazon wish list, and participants were responsible for shopping for one of them. 

Stella Garriga, ’21, helps with the Community Service Office Holiday Hope Chest event. (Courtesy of Stella Garriga)

CSO Student Coordinator Stella Garriga, ‘21, said the turnout this year was overwhelming. Since there were so many volunteers, they created a “bulk” wishlist of toys and necessities, like deodorant and toothbrushes, so they could be included in each student’s gift. 

“It was amazing to see that the list would get cleared out everytime we sent it to an organization,” Garriga said. “It’s so reassuring to know that people are just as eager to help the community as we are.” 

Garriga noted the importance of keeping these traditions going throughout the pandemic, especially during the holiday season. 

“If there was ever a time where we need to adapt and do what we can for the community, it is now,” she said.

Student Senate Thanksgiving food drive

The Bethlehem Outreach Committee on Student Senate organized an end of semester Thanksgiving food drive benefiting the Lehigh Valley Hispanic Center. Nine donation boxes were scattered on and off campus, with the hopes that students would clear out their pantries before leaving for break and donate any unopened items. Remote students could also donate through an Amazon wish list.  

The drive was especially important this year, since the pandemic has caused food banks to become depleted as more people are facing financial hardship. Items were accepted between Nov. 15 to Nov. 20., but due to the latest campus shutdown, boxes on campus have still yet to be collected. 

Nicole Clarke, ‘21, member of the Bethlehem Outreach Committee, said the drive was crucial, especially given the amount of South Bethlehem residents in need. 

“As a student living off campus, you see a lot more of the Bethlehem community,” Clarke said. “You can just tell when the community looks different, and it’s important to help out when you can.” 

Clarke said that despite the setbacks, they have had a good turnout from the off-campus community. 

“We have two huge boxes already filled,” she said. “We are so excited to give it to (the Hispanic Center) and see how it helps.”

Lehigh Valley Period Project holiday drive

The Lehigh Valley Period Project is a grassroots organization dedicated to providing free period products to those in need in the Lehigh Valley. The organization’s 2020 Holiday Drive is benefitting the Second Harvest Food Bank and is running now through Dec. 13. 

Sarah Pammer collects period products for her holiday drive. (Courtesy of Sarah Pammer)

The drive collects physical or monetary donations to supply period products to menstruating people. Physical drop-off locations are located in Emmaus; however, people can make monetary donations through Venmo or a cash app, which go directly to purchasing period products. 

Sarah Pammer, founder of the Lehigh Valley Period Project, said she has been working to raise awareness for something she said has been overlooked by large institutions across the country for years. 

She said menstruating people shouldn’t have to choose between being comfortable during their menstrual cycle and putting food on the table — a reality for many during the pandemic.

“Periods don’t stop for a pandemic,” Pammer said. “Mutual aid is more important than it’s ever been.” 

Pammer said she’s been impressed by the amount of people that have stepped up for the cause.

“I want to lift up the people who need to be lifted up,” she said.

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