The UNC Employee Forum’s Community Service Committee is spearheading a month-long toy drive to benefit the patients and families of the UNC Children’s Hospital this holiday season.
The Community Service Committee was founded by chairperson Katie Musgrove in 2016. The group has organized several philanthropic events since its inception.
The committee is part of UNC's Employee Forum, an advisory body that responds to Chancellor Carol Folt in the hopes of conveying staff concerns. The Forum also works towards bridging the gap between staff and students, Musgroves said.
This is the second annual toy drive that the Community Service Committee has organized for the Children’s Hospital.
“We have received a personal handwritten note from the hospital after last year’s donations, and that says to us that it was really appreciated by not only them, but the people who received the toys, as well,” Jim Potts, member of the Community Service Committee, said.
Potts said he was involved in the delivery of the collected toys at last year’s collection and that he, along with other volunteers, was able to fill in the back of a pick-up truck and entire interior of a mini-van with donated toys.
“Last year’s drive we collected a full van and full truck of toys for UNC children," Musgroves said. "We want to give even more this year."
In the hopes of collecting more toys than last year’s collection, the committee decided to make the drive a month-long collection from Nov. 14 to Dec. 14. It also increased the number of collection bins from the previous year.
Donated toys should be dropped off at one of the 33 total bins. These bins are located around campus and at a few off-campus locations.
Michele Fulton, member of the Community Service Committee, said each box placed within a campus school or department has a liaison from the committee who volunteers to monitor the gifts and ensure that the donated toys are properly stored of at the end of the day.
“Anyone and everyone on campus or off-campus is welcome to donate,” Musgroves said.
Donated toys must be new, unwrapped and lack religious origin. The toys cannot be food items, candy or weigh more than 20 pounds. Individuals can claim the toys they donate as tax deductible upon filling out a Gift In-Kind form, found on the Employee Forum’s website, and attaching that form and the receipt to the toy.
“The wish list we got (from the UNC Children’s Hospital) encompasses all age ranges of children — boys and girls, young and old and all ages in between,” Musgroves said.
Dzenita Blackwell, a member of the Community Service Committee, said the committee’s Children’s Hospital contact, Amber Kirkley, stressed the importance of collecting toys for teenage patients. According to Blackwell, Kirkley said the Hospital was challenged after last year’s collection because too few toys were teenager appropriate — including LEGO, board games and puzzles — were donated.
Additionally, Blackwell said newborn babies lacked sufficient donations during last year’s drive.
“The newborns are not able to know or recognize that they are getting a gift,” Blackwell said. “But it is important and special for their families because, in a way, it is a keepsake — and for many, it is the first Christmas, so just having that makes it more special for them.”
Groups beyond UNC are also contributing to the Community Service Committee’s toy drive. Specifically, North Carolina Central University Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students hosted a collection on its campus last year. Musgrove said the organization brought the collected toys to Chapel Hill for the children at the Children’s Hospital.
“It’s really amazing,” Blackwell said. “Even outside Chapel Hill, just the community effort that people are working to contribute. We welcome that with gratitude.”
After the collection period, the UNC Children’s Hospital distributes all gifts to patients and siblings of patients. The Community Service Committee does not participate in the distribution of gifts because of regulations concerning patient privacy.
“Not having that experience is a bit humbling because you know you are just doing good and you might not know who it goes to,” Blackwell said. “You might not see their reaction, but it gives me joy just knowing that there is a family out there that I will help make their day a little bit better when they get these toys.”
Musgrove said the UNC Hospitals distribute toys continuously throughout the year, but the hospital receives a huge influx of donations during the holiday season.
“A lot of these patients and their families are here for sometimes weeks on end during the holidays,” Musgrove said. “I think these gifts show them that the community here at UNC is fully behind them and supportive of them. I think this a great opportunity to show our love for the little mini Tar Heels that are going through something really, really tough, but hopefully these toys will put a smile on their face.”
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