For the 15th year running, Binghamton University Residential Life has teamed up with the Salvation Army to provide toys and necessities to needy families in the Binghamton area.
For the annual charity gift drive, “Hand to Heart,” resident assistants in dormitory buildings will collect student donations through Dec. 1.
Students who take part in the charity drive are assigned to buy gifts for a child of a specific age group and gender. Participants may request to buy gifts for a child of a certain age group and gender; otherwise, they are assigned based on where the need is greatest.
In addition to toys, ResLife permits students to donate personal items that may be of use, like cosmetics and toiletries.
The Salvation Army is not accepting any food donations for this program, according to Jean Pitely, a secretary in the ResLife office.
Pitely said RAs provide students with gift bags, and they ask students to fill the bags with gifts as little or as much as they feel they can afford.
The Salvation Army holds sign-ups for families who cannot afford to buy holiday presents for their children. The organization gives a list of the children’s ages and genders to ResLife.
“They welcome just anything you can share,” Pitely said. “If [students] want to be generous, that’s wonderful.”
A collection of resident directors started Hand to Heart on a smaller scale in 1996. The program has since expanded to help many low-income families in the area — about 900 families received gifts from the program last year.
“This year the requests are so much more,” Pitely said. “The requests have increased by one-third. There are already over 1,400 people requesting children’s items.”
She said that the flood in the Binghamton area in September left many families and children needy this fall and that another sign-up for the program will take place soon.
To help provide assistance, campus residents can sign up through their RAs, and off-campus students can sign up through any RA or the ResLife office located in Dickinson Community’s O’Connor Hall.
Ashley Ragusa, an RA in Dickinson and a junior majoring in psychology, helps coordinate the Hand to Heart drive. She said she participated in the program herself for the past two years.
“It was just a good experience to give back,” she said.
Claudia Isacc, an undeclared sophomore, said she helped her RA last year to box the presents that were being donated to children.
“You always hear about ‘giving to the kids’ and stuff, but when you’re actually making the box it’s just a little more personal,” Isacc said. “Just knowing that they’re getting something, that I can give to them, just kind of brought a sense of peace to everything going on in the world.”