Christmas Stars program helps student parents

Lauren Eagle is collectin presents for children of students. (Karissa Donkin/AQ)

Lauren Eagle knows first-hand how generous the St. Thomas University community can be at Christmas.

Since 2006, Eagle, who is a fixture in STU’s residence life office as student services representative, has been running a program called Christmas Stars.

The program gives toys to students with small children who can’t afford to buy gifts.

“We’re very appreciative of everyone coming together and having such a big heart at Christmas time for the kids.”

This program has been at St. Thomas for at least as long as Eagle has been at the school – it just had a different spin to it.

“When the tree went up in James Dunn Hall cafeteria they would hang paper stars on the tree with the children’s wishes.

“Anyone wanting to purchase a gift could take the star off the tree, purchase the gift or gifts and hand them in at the student affairs office.”

Eagle said there are always lots of donations from staff, faculty and students. The residence committees have even gotten involved.

“I’ve mentioned it to house committees and they were looking for a charity of some sort…this, at least, keeps in it the STU community.

“They’re helping their fellow student out.”

Eagle said the program has done really well. They’ve been able to cover everything students in the program needed.

“Nobody’s ever gone without.”

Although they’ve been able to accommodate everyone so far, the number of students with small children going to STU has increased, Eagle said.

At the beginning, there were only 14 or 15 children in the program, but now it’s up to about 25.

“There’s kids of all ages on here and there’s some [students] with only one child, but there’s some with multiple children. And you know that they’re not going to be able to afford it at Christmastime. It’s just too expensive.”

At the beginning of November, the student parents send in an email with their children’s names, age and what they want to give them for Christmas.

Then, an email is sent out asking students, faculty and staff for donations.

As soon as the email is sent out, Eagle gets “bombarded” with replies from people offering money or to buy the items.

“We try to do what’s on their wish list. If their wish list is outrageous, then sometimes I have to remind the parents that we may only be able to get one item off their list. But we do our best to get as much as we can for them within reason.

“We have a very good community here.”

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