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Sharing the Holidays with Those in Need

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 By Karen Guin

"Finger paints," "A poem book for teens" and "Shoes (any size)" - all are among the wish-list items that have adorned "Angel Tree" displays in the college this fall.

Each year, the colorful displays are created by social work students from the B.S.W. Student Association to solicit holiday gifts for children, adults and families in need in the Orlando area. Generous members of the college community select the cutouts, purchase the items and give them to the students to wrap and deliver to selected charitable organizations.

"This is not something our students do for credit or service learning," said Mary Van Hook, interim director of the School of Social Work. "It's what social work is all about: helping members of the community and eliciting help from others."

This year's Angel Tree gifts will be delivered to Harbor House, a refuge for victims of domestic violence in Orange County; CHARLEE Family Care Services of Central Florida, a facility for abused, neglected and abandoned children; the Hug-Me Program at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, a program for those infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS; and the BETA Center, a parenting education program for teen mothers and at-risk families.

Children from the Hug-Me Program will also be treated to a holiday party planned by students enrolled in "HIV Disease: A Human Concern," a service-learning course taught by Sharon Douglass, associate professor of cardiopulmonary sciences. The annual event, now in its fourth year, has been held at churches in the past, but this year's party will be held at the Rosen Center in Orlando.

According to Douglass, the students have planned arts and crafts projects and arcade games for the children. They've also arranged for a visit from Santa. "Each child will receive a gift selected especially for them," she said. "I can't wait to see their faces."

Other holiday charitable activities in the college include:

  • A holiday-card project sponsored by social work graduate students from the M.S.W. Student Association. The students have been soliciting donations of­ holiday cards, which they will sign and deliver to facilities with a large number of elderly residents.
  • Toy donations by faculty and staff members from the School of Nursing to the Children's Home Society of Florida in Orlando, which provides a variety of social services to children and families.
  • Pre-Thanksgiving meals prepared by members of the UCF Chapter of the National Student Speech, Language and Hearing Association for children and families at the Ronald McDonald House of Orlando and for clients with neurological impairments at the college's Communication Disorders Clinic.
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The health care informatics master's program at UCF really helped me connect with the industry, meet people at conferences and sit for the most-desired certification exams."
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