Colorful lights fill the streets, holiday joy fills the air, and children eagerly wait to open gifts on Christmas morning. And this December, for the 20th year, Books and Bears will help university staff members celebrate the holiday season by giving gifts to their children.
Donald Cole, assistant provost and one of the original leaders of the event, said Books and Bears collects donations every year in hope that “a child will receive a gift for Christmas that they might not have received otherwise.”
Over the years, the response to and impact of Books and Bears has grown tremendously, according to Cole, and the event now helps more than 200 staff members.
Felisa Redmond, assistant superintendent of Custodial Services, has been on the receiving end of Books and Bears since its inception. She goes every year to pick out a gift for her son.
“We are so blessed to have a university family that steps in and shows their appreciation around Christmastime and lets us know that they’re thinking about us,” she said. “Their gifts have allowed me to give to others, as well.”
Redmond said the event has grown over the years, as it was originally just for the custodial staff, then expanded to the custodial and grounds crews and now includes staff from many different departments.
“They even changed the time this year,” Redmond said. “Usually, they start at 10, but they realized that the custodial staff had to leave early to clock out every year, so they made it 30 minutes earlier for us this year.”
Books and Bears has impacted not only the children and staff but also those who give and the workers who help put on the event.
“Everybody who helps is affected by the work this event does, and I think that’s why it’s grown so much and so many people have responded,” Cole said.
Students from the Willie Price School, members of the administration and even Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter have donated to the cause.
“Before Chancellor Vitter was even working here at the university, his gift for Books and Bears was,” Cole said. “He saw something good and wanted to contribute.”
Boxes in which faculty and students can donate a children’s toy or book have been placed in various buildings around campus. Last night, at the men’s basketball game, spectators donated gifts in exchange for free entrance to the game.
Lakayla Love, a senior criminal justice major and communications director of Gamma Beta Phi Honor Society, has been in charge of collecting donations for her organization for the past two years.
“The custodial staff gives so much to us. It’s important we give back to them,” she said. “Especially with the economy, it’s important to help those in need.”
The Gamma Beta Phi Honor Society will be collecting children’s toys and books in Shoemaker 204 until next Wednesday. Love will be coordinating gift collection by allocating appropriate toys and books for children of different ages.
This year, Books and Bears will take place at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 15, and all staff members are invited to participate. Donations — children’s toys and books — are still needed and wanted, and they can be dropped off at various locations around campus.