W&L’s Campus Kitchen Teams up with Shop for Tots
This year, children taking part in the annual Rockbridge Area Shop for Tots program received a little something extra. They got to eat a full dinner provided by Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee University (CKWL) at the American Legion in Buena Vista before they set out to do their Holiday shopping.
More than 145 school children aged 6 to 12 years took part in the event on Monday, Dec. 5, designed to give lower income students in the community the opportunity to shop for their families. “We had four volunteers serving dinner,” said Jennifer Davidson, coordinator of student service learning at W&L and director of CKWL. “We know some of these children through other Campus Kitchen programs, so to see them in a different environment was really fun.”
Davidson said she was thrilled that Shop for Tots knew about Campus Kitchen and reached out to the organization for help. “It means that Campus Kitchen is becoming better known in the community, which is great,” she said. “It was a really good experience for us and we’ll partner with them again in the future. We may even help by advertising Shop for Tots through our Backpack Program, which provides backpacks filled with food for lower income elementary school children in the area.”
Mary Woodson, assistant director of communications and public affairs at W&L who has volunteered for Shop for Tots for 15 years and is an officer in the organization, said that involving Campus Kitchen not only provided a nutritious meal for the children but also saved the organization money. “We have had to purchase food for the children for the past few years,” she said. “So we used the money we saved on food to give to the children to spend on gifts for their family. Each child receives between eight and 10 dollars per family member they purchase gifts for. But it’s all based on how much funding we have available.”
It all contributed to what Woodson described as the best year yet for Shop for Tots. “We spent $2,945 and had about 40 volunteers who helped the children shop at the Dollar General and Family Dollar stores and then wrap their gifts,” she said. “What makes Shop for Tots special for me is the happiness on a child’s face as they select gifts for their family. My favorite shopping trip was when a small child purchased seed to feed Santa’s reindeer. These are children that just need a little help to make Christmas special for their family. A lot of former children of Shop for Tots are volunteers with us now.”
Shop for Tots raises funds for the event throughout the year. “Our biggest struggle right now is funding,” said Woodson. “Thankfully, Washington and Lee has given our organization grants for the past two years. Without those funds, the program would not have been possible.”