Holiday Food Drive spreads cheer across campus and in the community

Durham College and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) recently banded together in support of the annual campus-wide Holiday Food Drive.

The spirit of the season was felt across campus on December 18 when more than 160 students, staff and faculty members from Durham College and UOIT gathered at the Oshawa campus to sort, pack and deliver more than 130 holiday hampers to those in need across Durham Region.

Organized by the college and university in partnership with the Student Association and the Kinsmen Club of Oshawa, the drive kicked off on November 16. Financial donations and non-perishable food items were collected until December 14 with several fundraising events and initiatives held on campus during the month-long event.

“The Holiday Food Drive truly brings our entire community together to support our own,” said Kevin Dougherty, co-chair of the drive and a Durham College professor. “This year the initiative received overwhelming support, not only from our internal community but our entire extended community including our unions, the Durham College Retirees’ Association and the college’s Alumni Association. It’s such a unique partnership and everyone is to be commended for its success.”

2011 saw an increased need for assistance across campus and in the community, which was met with an overwhelming response. The drive raised more than $18,000 with the funds providing assistance to 82 Durham College and UOIT student-families including 145 children. In addition, 10 grocery bursaries were provided for students living on their own and an additional 40 hampers were filled to help families in need in the community.

“Coming back to school was a tough adjustment for me and my family and it has been further compounded with unforeseen circumstances,” said a second-year Durham College student, father of four and second-time Holiday Food Drive recipient. “Everyone has been really supportive and the extra help we received through the food drive really helped ease the burden for us over the holidays.”

Volunteers had the opportunity to see first-hand the joy and relief the hampers bring to families in need and for many, the event symbolized the true meaning of the season.

“It’s all about giving back,” added Dougherty. “We talk a lot about community here and to have so many people come out to help pack and deliver (the hampers) is truly remarkable. We are fortunate to be a part of such a vibrant place where the staff and faculty really care about our students. This event is a great example of people pulling together for a common good.”

Dougherty has been involved in the Holiday Food Drive for the last 12 years and he has co-chaired the initiative with his wife Pat Vale-Dougherty, executive assistant to the dean, Faculty of Education at UOIT, for the past six years.