Faculty and Staff Play Santa’s Helpers through Books & Bears Program

Annual charity event provides toys for physical plant employees and their families

OXFORD, Miss. – The Christmas holiday season got a whole lot brighter for the children and families of University of Mississippi Physical Plant employees as they received gifts Friday (Dec. 14) at the Ole Miss Union Ballroom.

Smiles abounded as members of the Black Faculty and Staff Organization distributed more than 300 gifts through the annual Books and Bears program. The items were donated by UM faculty, staff and students, and Oxford merchants over the past three weeks. Reception was enthusiastic.
“This is really a nice thing for them to do,” said Darlene Ivy, a custodian from Taylor. “These donations really help a lot of our families, and I look forward to this every year.”

The donations were noticed and very much appreciated by BFSO officials.

“It is just amazing! The thoughtfulness of even our local children toward others who are less fortunate captures the spirit of the holidays,” said Donald Cole, associate provost and assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs. “We can certify their gifts as ‘child-desired’ since they were hand-picked by the experts!”

Many of the employees expressed their pleasure over the assistance in obtaining toys and books for their children.

“My children are all grown, so I’ll donate whatever I’m given to someone else who has smaller children,” said Kim Sawyer of Oxford. “This year, I need a bicycle, baby dolls and a big truck for my nieces and nephew.”

“Books and Bears helps single moms with gifts for their kids,” said custodian Jerry Hardin of Abbeville. “I’m giving whatever I get to those who are less fortunate. Hopefully, it will make someone else’s Christmas more merry.”

Jackie Hardin of Oxford said gifts like bicycles and iPods are tough items to buy in these difficult economic times. “Books and Bears bring a lot of love in the home,” she said.

Gamma Beta Phi service fraternity contributed a significant number of items for the program, Cole said. In addition to the usual dolls, books and games, a number of new bicycles and tricycles were given by an anonymous donor, he added.

This is the 15th year new that the university community has collected teddy bears, children’s books and toys for children of custodial and grounds workers.

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