Madison House, Salvation Army team up on Holiday Sharing project

Charity brings food, gifts to Charlottesville families in need

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Throughout the fall semester, student volunteers from Madison House work to collect donations from individuals and groups on-Grounds and in Charlottesville. The project culminates in a distribution day in December, when all the donations are given to the sponsored families.

Sabrina Ferrero | Cavalier Daily

Holiday Sharing, an ongoing project between Madison House and the Salvation Army, will be pairing community sponsors with families in need this holiday season to bring gifts and food to the Charlottesville community.

Throughout the fall semester, student volunteers from Madison House work to collect donations from individuals and groups on Grounds and in Charlottesville. The project culminates in a distribution day in December, when all the donations are given to sponsored families.

The Salvation Army identifies families in need, but student volunteers are responsible for the rest of the process, said Madison House Communications Director Victoria Long, a University alumna.

“Some students are in charge of raising awareness among community sponsors like businesses,” Long said.

The program has seen increased involvement over the past few years. In 2012, the program was sponsoring about 110 families but has now increased its reach to 160, said Eric MacBlane, a third-year Engineering student and a program director for the Holiday Sharing Program.

The two groups allow different ways to sponsor families, but the most common is through the direct provision of food and gifts, MacBlane said.

“The most popular way to sponsor a family is that one signs up online through our website, and then we email them a list of food and gifts required for a family,” he said.

Through this donation method, the sponsor buys gifts for each family member and enough food to last the family for three days. No monetary donations are accepted, except for individuals who are out of town or no longer live nearby, MacBlane said.

“Many of our sponsorships are from individuals who have graduated or who are out of town, in which case we accept monetary donations,” MacBlane said.

Some sponsorships come from businesses in the Charlottesville area, but many come from groups on Grounds, he said. Some schools within the University, such as the Batten School and the Commerce School, work with faculty to sponsor several families. Fraternities and sororities host fundraiser events to sponsor families as well.

“Sports teams, Greek life and CIOs are really big on the student side and departments are really big on the faculty side,” MacBlane said.

Long said all the donations brought to Madison House before distribution day create a festive atmosphere.

“It turns what’s normally a center for student volunteers into basically the North Pole for a couple of weeks,” she said.

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