Wittenberg Community Service Scholar And Family Recognized For Annual Christmas Service Project
Springfield, Ohio – For Amy Packer, class of 2011 from Toledo, Ohio, charity begins at home. A Wittenberg University Community Service Scholar, Packer joins her family in hosting an annual Christmas Extravaganza to benefit those in need, an initiative that earned the family a nomination for a prestigious Jefferson Award for Public Service earlier this year.
It was the family’s second Jefferson Award nomination, a tribute to the Packer’s consistent involvement in community service projects. The Jefferson Awards recognize people locally and nationally for outstanding public service, with winners from each area receiving the award from the president in Washington, D.C.
“Just being nominated for the Jefferson Awards is a big deal and is very important to our family,” Packer said. “This program is very special to us and has led me to become a community service scholar at Wittenberg.”
Packer hasn’t rested on her laurels during her collegiate career, working with both the Girl Scouts and an afterschool program called STARS that is run by Springfield Christian Youth Ministries. She also hosted a car wash in April 2010, raising $400 for Wittenberg’s annual Relay for Life event that supports cancer research.
The Packer family started its annual Christmas Extravaganza in hopes of helping struggling single mothers provide gifts and food for their children during the holiday season. It began with relatively small numbers, feeding 20 families the first year. It has grown quickly, serving more than 800 people in the last six years, including the recent 2010 event.
“Our family and neighbors got together one day and were talking about what these poor single mothers and their children do for Christmas,” Packer said. “Most of these women can only afford to feed their children peanut butter sandwiches for every meal. We decided that we needed to find a way to help them celebrate Christmas.”
Since then it has gained popularity and has become more selective, with families referred by a pastor from a participating church and put through a screening process to ensure that assistance is given to those truly in need. Families chosen for the program are given the opportunity to experience Christmas by entering two designated shopping areas: a children’s room and an adult room, where they select various gifts for their parents and siblings. After shopping, the families reunite and have a hot meal together.
Thanks to funding from a variety of community sources, the Christmas Extravaganza program concludes by sending the Christmas spirit home with families. They are each provided with a food basket with enough food for up to 10 meals, a family gift, stockings filled with toys for the kids, and a stuffed animal hand selected by each child out of Santa’s bag.
It is fitting that Packer chose Wittenberg, which includes community service as a graduation requirement, for her collegiate educational pursuits. That selection was made easier by the fact that the university offers a Community Service Scholars program, which includes a four-year developmental plan that allows students to become actively involved in service to the community for 20 hours each semester.
In addition, Community Service Scholars participate in educational and enrichment activities, serve as advocates for community engagement, and are given the opportunity to reflect on the connection between their experience and the liberal arts education. The program creates a supportive environment for students who have a common focus on making a difference in their community.
“We have an average of more than 50 applications for our Community Scholar Awards every year,” said Director of Community Service Kristen Collier, class of 1992. “We review each application and ask 20 of the applicants to participate in the interview process. From these we select seven to 10 Community Service Scholars each year.”
Packer is an Early Childhood Education major and Spanish minor, and she plans to continue to touch lives in her community as a teacher following graduation in May 2011.
Written/Edited By: Haley Gerken ’10, Phyllis Eberts and Ryan Maurer
Photo By: Erin Pence