Dec. 5, 2016Vol. 47, Issue 3

Making Happy Holidays

Facilities Management and Services carpenter makes it his mission to help the University Needy Children’s Program succeed

Christmas gift donations pile up for the University Needy Children’s Program.

Scott Taylor believes every child deserves at least one magical Christmas. 

That’s why the carpenter with Facilities Management and Services (FMS) has made it his mission to make the University Needy Children’s Program the best it can be. For the last four years, he’s devoted himself to selling hundreds of raffle tickets, rallying colleagues to support selected families, and gathering gifts and household items for transport to University Farm.

“It’s Christmas,” he said. “It’s supposed to bring joy and happiness, and a lot of kids don’t have that. If we can make it happen for one day, we have reached our goal.”

Each year, the University gathers items for needy families and children who otherwise receive no support or charity for the holidays. In recent years, the program would not have been as successful without the dedicated support of Taylor and his FMS colleagues, said Cindy Kelly, service projects committee chair with Staff Council.

“You put (a need) out there and departments say, ‘I can do that’ or ‘I know someone who can help with that,’” Kelly said. “It’s amazing how generous people are—and I think Scott is one of the most generous and humble about it. He’s an inspiration.”

Taylor’s enthusiasm began when he was asked four years ago to join Staff Council. He became part of the special projects committee and it quickly became a passion.

This year, he set the record of 700 raffle tickets sold, with proceeds ensuring each family gets at least $50 in grocery cards to spend on food so they can stock their pantry and have a holiday meal. He blames the low number on the rain—last year he sold 1,100. 

“I didn’t realize so many people needed that kind of help,” Taylor said. “We are all pretty fortunate to work here. We can get by with what we make. But for some people, Christmas otherwise could be nothing.”

Part of Taylor’s job with FMS takes him into offices across campus to make repairs, and he never misses a chance to pitch the program, whether they can be incentivized with the prizes or the cause itself. He is also proud of his colleagues in FMS, who may not take home salaries as large as other entities on campus but still open their hearts and wallets.

“Once they saw what we were trying to do, they all bought in,” he said. 

Scott Taylor continues to set the campus record for the number of raffle tickets sold, with all proceeds used to buy food cards for families in need.

Scott Taylor continues to set the campus record for the number of raffle tickets sold, with all proceeds used to buy food cards for families in need.

This year the campus is supporting 60 families and 118 children. Since the University Needy Children program’s inception in 1990, it has provided for 1,826 families, 4,716 children, and $89,332 in funds for food gift cards, with 40 to 87 campus entities taking part every year..  

When the vehicle barrier arms went up a few years ago around campus, blocking access to all but a limited few, it cut off the pipeline for gathering gifts to take to University Farm. Taylor requested from his supervisors that FMS be allowed to volunteer a few work hours to drive their campus rigs and get the gifts, which are then loaded into a moving truck. Each year, he solicits help from different areas of the office—trades people, groundskeepers, office staff, and custodial employees.

“I ask for volunteers and there is no shortage,” he said.  “The response has been great.”

Additionally, the trades workers sponsor a family every year, and the office now sponsors a second family. While the office employees usually purchase all their necessary gifts, the trades employees typically opt for cash in lieu of shopping, so Taylor and his wife, Lynn Taylor, an administrative support coordinator in Human Resources, play Santa, stretching the dollars as far and as grand as they can go.

Whether buying dolls and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys for young children, basketballs and iTunes gift cards for teens, or perhaps some pots and pans for parents, Taylor said he likes to imagine the expression on the recipients’ faces when they unwrap a gift he helped pick out.

This year his team is helping a single mother with three children, ages 12, 14, and 16. While harder to shop for, it’s just as important the teens experience some Christmas magic, he said.

“It could be the only good Christmas they have,” he said. “For some, it could be the only Christmas they remember.”

Every year, campus far surpasses the recipients’ wish lists, Kelly said, noting they add extra gifts and baskets of household necessities, whether dish soap or blankets or rugs—“all of the things it takes to have your home.”

 “It’s been a tradition on campus now for 26 years. People look forward to it. It’s a way for a campus department or office to come together during the holidays and do something really cool together,” said Kelly, an administrative analyst specialist with Intercollegiate Athletics.  “It’s been a unifying thing for all of us to pull together for that common good.”

Taylor and Kelly encourage others to come witness the magic for themselves. An open house to showcase the gifts will be held December 7 from 5–6 p.m. at University Farm Pavilion, with light refreshments and holiday music.

“Once they get to the farm, everyone is overwhelmed by what the campus does for the community,” he said. “There are 70-plus families who are getting a Christmas they never would have otherwise. I think everyone needs to see that.”

The University Needy Children’s Program volunteers, 2016.

The program's volunteers takes a break from sorting the numerous gift donations.

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