Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Operation Christmas Spirit brings community together

Each year the Augustana community comes together for Operation Christmas Spirit. Groups and individuals adopt either a child or a Longfellow Liberal Arts School classroom or office. As one of the largest events this year, the Residence Hall Association adopted 67 children and 21 classrooms, according to junior and RHA president Adela Flores.

This service project draws people from all over campus, from individual students to fraternities to dining services. It offers the campus a chance to give back to the Quad Cities community.

While there are many participants, each has a different motivator. For Dean Pareena Lawrence, it’s being able to provide joy for a child.

“My boys and I love to go out and shop for a five or 10-year-old boy or girl whom we will never meet, but we can imagine their delight when they open up their gifts,” said Lawrence. “That ‘imagined delight’ is more valuable than watching the ‘real delight.’”

From families to sports teams, Operation Christmas Spirit is a time for bonding.

Sophomore Rebecca Pollard and the women’s lacrosse team are working together for the service project.

“Our team first got involved last year when I had decided that I wanted to sponsor a child. I had mentioned it to some teammates and they said they would help,” said Pollard. “I believe it’s now going to become a yearly tradition.”

Augustana’s Greek Life is becoming involved in adopting children this year with social fraternity Alpha Sigma Xi, music fraternity Sigma Alpha Iota and social sorority Delta Chi Theta.

Junior Tyler Grace, an Alpha Sigma Xi member,wanted to reach out to the Rock Island community.

“We realize that not everyone is able to celebrate Christmas as well as they may hope,” said Grace. “We wanted to ensure that a child who would otherwise be unable to experience Christmas woke up to a smile on their face on Christmas morning.”

Other members of the Augustana community realize the impact that Augustana has on the Quad Cities community and take time to give back.

Registrar Liesl Fowler and Sports Information Director Dave Wrath combine their families to support a child and have participated in Operation Christmas Spirit for several years.

“We are both very active in our own individual communities of Bettendorf and Moline, but we feel this is a way to give back right here to our Augustana neighborhood in Rock Island,” said Fowler.

While the program assists children, it also provides for Longfellow classrooms and offices. Longfellow, which has a partnership with Augustana, shares a liberal arts focus on education. While adopting children makes up the larger percentage of Operation Christmas Spirit, there are still groups and individuals who sponsor a classroom.

“Cantilena Augustana has a running tradition of adopting a classroom,” said first-year Ellenelle Gilliam. “We all thought it would be a great way to spread some holiday cheer!”

Augustana senior Madison Logan of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, agrees, “It’s a wonderful feeling to give back to a classroom that will foster so many wonderful memories for the kids. It’s great to know that you are making a difference in several little lives.”

RHA executive board member Victoria Cartland remembers her childhood Christmas experiences and relates to the children she now helps.

“Operation Christmas Spirit is important to me because when I was younger there was a period of time where my mother was out of work and unable to afford Christmas presents for my brother and I,” said Cartland, a junior. “Then a local church stepped up and bought my brother and I things from our Christmas wish list, and I will never forget how happy I was and how fortunate that I felt.”

Web content developer in the communication and marketing office Andrew Petersen shares Operation Christmas Spirit with both his family and his youth group, expanding the project even further into the community. Petersen, who is participating for his second year, was so eager that he contacted RHA to adopt two children a week in advance.

“I thought, this would be a great activity for the youth,” said Petersen, who runs the Episcopal Youth Group at the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Davenport. “They really love to go shopping with us.”

Petersen hopes to keep up the tradition and will continue next year.

No matter the reason, organization or individual, Operation Christmas Spirit brings about the gift of giving.

As librarian Christine Aden said, “Helping to make a child’s Christmas special? That is just magic.”

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Operation Christmas Spirit brings community together