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Holiday Giving Becomes Part of SUNY Plattsburgh Graduate Student's Practicum

With Legos, Play-Doh, basketballs and dinosaurs lining the walls, the office of Student Activities and Volunteerism recently looked more like a toy store than a college office.

For years now, faculty, staff and students have been playing the role of holiday elves – donating money, toys and food for families in need. This year’s efforts resulted in $1,700 worth of food, in addition to gifts for 125 people.

Practical Experience (and Playing Santa)

Bryan Ensel '09 played head elf this year. The grad student in the student affairs professional practice program, coordinated the Adopt-A-Friend and holiday food basket programs as part of his practicum.

Ensel, who wants to work in higher education, already had experience working with college students – as an orientation leader, residence adviser and hall director. But, before this, he hadn't really experienced coordinating volunteer work with students.

“I figured that this would be a great opportunity to try it out and see if I liked it,” Ensel said.

So he went to work, getting names and wish lists from the Department of Social Services, creating a database, breaking down and distributing the lists, publicizing the efforts, collecting donations (with the some help from moving crews) and bringing all of the items to the Department of Social Services.

Ensel said that he enjoyed the work, “but seeing it behind the scenes, I now know there's a lot more to it than people realize.”

Collecting the food was one of the biggest challenges, because, as opposed to collecting items on campus, it involved working with individuals and organizations both at the college and around the community. Ensel found himself putting many miles on his car as he gathered the donations.

‘Overwhelmed by the Generosity’

But the work is paying off.

"People are overwhelmed by the generosity of the college,” Director of Social Services Chris Allen said. “From my point of view, this is a wonderful partnership and an example of the college being a good neighbor.

“We can do the information gathering,” Allen said, “but the generosity of the students, faculty and staff is what makes it happen.”

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