Pitching In

News Feature

News & Events

June 28, 2012

Eighteen staff members in the university's Division of External Affairs recently spent a day volunteering their services at Gifts-to-Give, a non-profit agency in New Bedford where no one receives a salary and thousands of the commonwealth's neediest children are provided with gift packages to brighten their lives.

"The Gifts-to-Give program in New Bedford is one the most successful examples of social justice one can imagine," said [b]Fred Clark[/b], '83, executive vice president and vice president for External Affairs at BSU, who led the delegation of university volunteers. "The staff in the Division of External Affairs responded enthusiastically to the idea of donating a day to work there through the university's SERV Program."

More than 12,000 people annually volunteer to work in the program's warehouse, a sprawling former Berkshire-Hathaway mill, collecting and sorting clothing, shoes, school supplies, toys, books and other items for distribution to children in need throughout the region. Each week, Gifts-to-Give donates 20,000 pounds of these items throughout the region, from Brockton to Cape Cod, and each year some 75,000 children are the direct beneficiaries.

"There's a tremendous need in our communities and I'm grateful to all the staff people from external affairs at Bridgewater who so willingly volunteered their time and energy. We're committed to doing this on a regular basis, and we encourage our BSU colleagues to consider participating in SERV opportunities as well.  Like us, you may find that the real beneficiary of service is yourself," Mr. Clark said.

Upon arrival at Give-a-Gift headquarters, James Stevens, the organization's founder and CEO, welcomed the BSU group and explained the philosophy behind its efforts.

"In America today there are two kinds of children. One group of children lives very well the second group of children is living in poverty. The two groups have nothing in common," said Mr. Stevens. "The privileged children are clueless about how lucky they are while the children who live in poverty are clueless about the choices they have. My intention in creating this program was to develop a model that would bring together thousands and thousands of young people from both sides the tracks to share a common goal: to teach them a new kind of civic engagement. I call this tangible philanthropy.' "

He said that there are more than 10,000 children living in poverty in New Bedford alone and Give-a-Gift is aimed at providing them with life's essentials, such as clothing and shoes and books and cribs, to name a few of all the items we receive from donations and then distribute throughout the region.

"We've converted this old mill into a repurposing center' for this purpose," Mr. Stevens said, "and today more than 150 social service agencies depend on us for help."

[b]Mary Delgado[/b], assistant to the vice president for external affairs, who helped plan the event and who, along with colleague Mr. [b]Harold Tavares[/b], drove one of the two vans that transported the BSU staffers to New Bedford, said that she was grateful for the opportunity to be of assistance.

"This was an opportunity for us to engage in an important community service while having a chance for people in the External Affairs Division to work together outside of our day-to-day responsibilities," she said. "Not only it was it a good team-building' exercise but, more importantly, it helped us advance the university's commitment to social justice. The Gifts-to-Give organization serves tens of thousands of needy children and families throughout the South Coast region of the state so this was an excellent chance for us to connect with those who've committed their lives to helping others."  Story and photo by David K. Wilson, '71, University Advancement