The holidays are a time for many University of Wisconsin-Stout students, faculty and staff to give back to Menomonie and Dunn County.
On Dec. 1, Andrea Bertram, a UW-Stout senior majoring in psychology, helped wrap presents at Shops Off Broadway Mall for Road to Freedom’s Motorcycle Rights Organization’s Christmas Miracle. The nonprofit organization helps children ages newborn to 14 years old in need during the Christmas season.
“I love wrapping,” said Bertram, of Fond du Lac, as she wrapped a Disney Minnie Mouse stuffed toy. “The holiday season is for giving. That is why I am here. I want to do my best to give underprivileged children the kind of Christmas I had. This is the best way for me to do that. I feel the community gives a lot to UW-Stout. It’s important for students to support the community that supports them. I’m just excited for the children to enjoy the holiday season.”
Senior computer engineering major Walker Olson, of Chetek, joined Bertram in wrapping gifts for Christmas Miracle. “I decided I hadn’t done much as far as giving back,” he said. “It seemed like something I could do. I am hoping it will make me a better wrapper.”
Linda Nguyen, a senior majoring in early childhood development from Chaska, Minn., also helped. “It’s a perfect way to give back to the community,” she said, noting her sorority Delta Zeta encourages community service. “Stout students are a big part of Menomonie, even if we only are here four years,” she said. “I think it’s great we show we are involved and to show we want to give back. We are not just here to go to college; we are part of the community while we are here.”
Christmas Miracle, in its fourth year, will provided gifts, clothing, books, bedding and other items for about 450 children in the Chippewa Valley. Guardians or parents apply and provide a wish list, said Tanya Dugan, secretary of Road to Freedom. “We always make sure each child gets a pair of shoes,” she said.
Faculty, staff and students sponsored 49 children with Christmas Miracle this year, up from 32 last year, said Jessica Jurgella, civic engagement and Greek life coordinator with the campus Involvement Center. She credited the increase with more of the campus being familiar with StoutReach, a program within the Involvement Center to reach the greater community and encourage student civic engagement. Eighteen of the 49 children were sponsored by athletics groups.
With the 49 children, about 150 gifts were purchased, Jurgella said. As part of the Chancellor’s Holiday Celebration on Tuesday, Dec. 4, about 15 general gifts were also dropped off for Christmas Miracle.
“We’re seeing more students getting involved than ever before,” Jurgella said. “”It’s nice to give back to the community. For younger kids within the broader community, it’s good they know others care about them.”
Shop With a Cop
Three UW-Stout police officers joined nearly three dozen area law enforcement officers volunteering Dec. 1 to help 40 area children as part of the Shop with a Cop program at Wal-Mart in Menomonie.
Patrol officer Corey Hein, who is retiring in January, took part in his first Shop with a Cop. “Kids are what it is all about,” Hein said.
Hein visits the Child and Family Study Center yearly to talk with children and give them a chance to meet an officer. “They don’t have to be afraid to see us in uniform,” Hein said. “We are there to help. We’re approachable. They can talk to us.”
Patrol officer Sean Haskamp and Sgt. Lisa Pederson also shopped for toys and necessities with children. Pederson said Shop with a Cop is about having positive interactions with kids, something they may not always experience with law enforcement officers.
“I think it is important for people to see that Stout is part of the community as a whole,” said Pederson, who volunteered for the third year.
Children who shopped with the officers were referred by various agencies such as Dunn County Human Services, area schools and in some cases by officers themselves, according to Menomonie Police Department crime prevention specialist Brenna Jasper. All children in a household automatically participate.
Each child was given $100 to spend. Children also had breakfast and visited with Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus.
Other events planned on campus to give back to the community included:
- The Applied Math and Computer Science Women’s Club holiday bake sale was held Thursday, Dec. 6, with proceeds going to Bolton Refugee House in Eau Claire, to assist those affected by domestic violence and sexual assault.
- The Men in Education student organization collected new and gently used mittens for the Mitten Tree at the Dunn County Judicial Center.
The Mitten Tree was started in 1979 by the late Dunn County Judge Donna Muza who lived by the quote: “No child’s hand should ever be cold.” Muza knitted mittens for years. The tradition continued with Muza’s family. The mittens are free for the public to take from a tree in the Judicial Center, 615 Stokke Parkway.
UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, with a focus on applied learning, collaboration with business and industry, and career outcomes.
Linda Nguyen, a UW-Stout student, says it is important for students to be part of the community and help give back.
UW-Stout Police officer Corey Hein, at right, shops at Menomonie’s Wal-Mart on Dec. 1 with Noah Scofield, a Menomonie fourth grader, during the Shop with a Cop program.
Jessica Jurgella, civic engagement and Greek life coordinator with the campus Involvement Center, said faculty, staff and students sponsored more children this year with Christmas Miracle.