Thursday, December 04, 2008

UIS Holiday Stars Project makes difference in the local community

By Courtney Westlake

UIS community members from all areas of campus pitched in on Thursday afternoon, December 4, to load up a truck from the Central Illinois Foodbank with the more than 4,000 pounds of food collected during the 2008 Holiday Stars Project.

"When we created our strategic plan for the university, two of our three goals included making a difference in the world and enriching individual lives," said Chancellor Richard Ringeisen. "When we look at all of this food, we know that we're talking about more than enriching lives but truly making a difference in our local world."

The Holiday Stars Project, coordinated through the UIS Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center, was kicked off with a Trick or Treat event on Halloween in which students went trick or treating for canned goods through local neighborhoods. The original goal for the project, 2008 pounds, was reached that night, so the Holiday Stars Project doubled the goal.

Students, faculty and staff of more than 30 UIS departments came together to reach the new goal, even down to the kids at the Cox Children's Center raising more than $300 through collecting change.

One hundred and sixty agencies will be using this food in central Illinois, said Gloria Shanahan, communications director of the Central Illinois Foodbank.

"The foodbank services 21 counties in Illinois, and they are going to be ecstatic," she said. "To come from the chancellor and trickle down to individual students is quite an example. Our message at the foodbank is that hunger is with us 365 days a year, so this is a wonderful time to give. Every single day, there are people out there who do not know where their next meal is going to come from."

The Holiday Stars Project is led by a Holiday Stars committee, made up of representatives from many different areas on campus.

"When our committee first met, we decided we needed a goal, and our goal was to begin a UIS holiday service tradition and create a direction for what UIS could do for our community, especially during the holiday season," said Kelly Thompson, director of the Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center. "We felt it was important to help our community in these times of economic uncertainty. We want to thank the community as well, who was wonderfully receptive to this effort."

UIS, teamed up with members of the community, collected more than two tons of food, Ringeisen said.

"I'm told this will probably feed 2,000 families," he said. "I'm very proud of the students, faculty and staff that gathered together to do this at this time of the year. This is a difficult time for both those who need the food and those who are giving it away, so that makes it even more special."

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