It may be Kathleen Lackey’s first year with the Treasures for Children program, but, chances are, it won’t be her last.
Lackey, an international studies major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is credited with spearheading IUP’s collection effort through the Office of Service Learning this holiday season.
For nearly 30 years, Treasures for Children, sponsored by The Salvation Army and The Indiana Gazette, has worked to ensure that no one in financial need goes without Christmas gifts.
Treasures for Children trees are put up at participating locations around the county and decorated with tags that include the name of a child, special needs adult or senior citizen in need, as well as information about what that person would like for Christmas.
“It’s a great way to give back to the community, especially around this time of year,” Lackey said.
Taking part in the program is as simple as selecting a tag, purchasing gifts and returning them to a participating site, unwrapped and with a note designating them for the Treasures for Children program.
Gifts that have already been donated at IUP — and nearly 50 other sites around Indiana County — will be picked up today.
But, there’s still plenty of time to get involved.
By Wednesday, remaining tags will be found hanging on trees at one of two locations, the Kmart and Walmart stores in White Township. Those sites will continue to collect gifts throughout the holiday season.
Lackey, a junior who transferred to IUP from the Community College of Allegheny County, said she was happy to have the chance to get involved with Treasures for Children.
“I like being able to help people,” she said, “especially around the holidays.”
She worked closely with her longtime friend and roommate Leah White.
To make this year’s effort a success, they encouraged student involvement, setting up around campus to spread the word about the program, and how easy it is to participate.
“I think it’s a great way for students to give back,” Lackey said. “There’s a wide range of items that are listed on the tags, so it could be something small or something large. But there’s something everybody can pick.”
About 10 departments got into the giving spirit this year, as well as several student organizations and the Foundation for IUP.
The Office of Service Learning has participated in the efforts for about four years, according to Diane Stipcak, the department’s coordinator.
In addition, IUP’s Career Development office has participated through the Treasures for Children Adopt a Family program for at least 10 years. A number of other departments adopt a family, too.
With the Treasures for Children Adopt a Family efforts, groups of sponsors all pitch in to provide gifts and a holiday meal for an entire family.
Some departments on campus put up their own Treasures for Children trees to make it easier for individuals to take part. Individual students pitched in, too. So did those from off campus.
“It’s not specific areas (that get involved),” said Diane Stipcak, Office of Service Learning coordinator. “It’s out there for the whole IUP community.”
Planning, Lackey said, began around the end of October.
“Then we really started in the beginning of November, getting tags, coordinating with the Salvation Army,” she said. “Before Thanksgiving, we really started to get involved with the students on campus.”
The bulk of donations came in the past week or so, according to Lackey. She found that many students went shopping for the gifts during Thanksgiving break.
“I was really surprised with how the turnout was and the generosity of everybody with all the gifts,” she said, adding that she will “definitely” be involved with Treasures for Children when she’s a senior.
“I’d especially like to thank everyone who donated this year. It’s been such an amazing turnout.”