Argus Wesleyan | Wesleyan Veterans Organization supports off-campus community with Share the Heat fundraising campaign

c / o Sam Hilton, editor

The Wesleyan Veterans Organization (WesVO) is running a Share-the-Warmth winter campaign from Monday November 1 to Saturday December 18, in support of three organizations: Integrated services for refugees and immigrants (IRIS), Child advocacy center, and the Women and Families Center of Connecticut. WesVO is asking for donations of warm clothing, toys, school supplies and hygiene products to be dropped off in donation boxes at High Rise, Fauver, Hewitt Lounge, WestCo Lounge, Butterfield A, Exley Hall, Cardinal Tech, the Resource Center and Allbritton Center, as well as various locations in Middletown.

WesVO’s events coordinator, Desaree Edwards ’25, explained that this initiative was in part prompted by the withdrawal of the US military from Afghanistan and the ensuing refugee crisis.

“The trigger… is what happened in Afghanistan, in particular the large influx of refugees, and how this affected many ex-combatants, even those who were not necessarily deployed to Afghanistan.” , said Edwards. “The last 20 years have been geared towards this particular goal, and the way it ended has taken a heavy toll on the hearts of many veterans. So I think realizing that we had a refugee center so close to us, we thought, “Oh, maybe we can make a difference there! “

WesVO President Elle Bixby ’22 also spoke about the group’s unique position to be involved in both academic affairs and local initiatives in Middletown.

“We really wanted this to be a campus and Middletown type drive,” Bixby said. “As veterans… we’re students, but we’re generally older, so we have a lot more connection to the city in general. So we wanted to be able to help fill in any gaps that we could and have something that shows the campus that you don’t just have to do one thing on campus as an organization, it can actually be done. spread to the whole community.

In addition to supporting IRIS, WesVO is looking for toys in good condition, as well as warm clothes and children’s hygiene items for the local Child Advocacy Center, which helps fight for justice and fairness for children. vulnerable children of Connecticut. Edwards said WesVO chose this group to highlight the bond between students of all ages.

“We decided to also collect donations for the children’s advocacy center just because, you know, we’re students,” Edwards said. “Even though we are college students, there is a great need for clothing and hygiene items for the homeless youth of Connecticut. So it went rather well with us by also organizing the donation campaign for IRIS. “

Any goods received by WesVO that are not needed or wanted by IRIS or the Center for Children’s Advocacy will be donated to the Women and Families Center of Connecticut, Edwards explained.

“It will depend on the number of items we get [IRIS or the Center for Children’s Advocacy] can use, ”Edwards said. “We apply a three-level approach: we are going to give the elements that we can to IRIS…[but] for example, IRIS is not necessarily looking for toys, they are rather looking for warm clothes, then toys that we are going to donate to the child advocacy center, and then, if there is something that these two organizations have done No need, we plan to donate it to the Women and Families Center of Connecticut…. It mainly depends on the number of donations we receive.

Bixby spoke on the donation side of campus, stressing the importance of raising awareness in previously untapped areas.

“I contacted some of the people I worked with for [Residential] Life and I were like, ‘Can we put a box in one of your dorms?’ and we actually have [a] very good response on that, ”Bixby said. “So we have clubs at High Rise and Fauver, at Hewitt, even at Westco, things like that. Normally these aren’t really the places that get that much attention for the ‘Hey, let’s pick things up’ genre, but it seems obvious! Where people live is perhaps the easiest way to get people who have something extra to give. “

Edwards worked more with the Middletown community as a whole to integrate the reader with other efforts by business owners in the area.

“I contacted probably 30 companies [and churches] in the Middletown community to try and get places where we can put our donation boxes, ”Edwards said. “We have received comments, not everyone has responded. A lot of people do their own fundraising campaigns and so on. “

As a result of this awareness-raising process, WesVO was able to form a meaningful partnership with the ash + salt shop on Main Street, and ended up participating in Small Business Saturday, hosted by cendre + sel.

In total, WesVO collected around 10 large boxes of merchandise, although Edwards says she hoped that number would be higher given the size of the college community. In part, she credits low publicity, as this is the first iteration of the organization’s campaign.

“This is the first time we have done something like this and I am a [first year], so I’m trying to coordinate that as someone who doesn’t really know the best channels to discuss things, ”Edwards said. “We plan to do it again next year, provided nothing crazy happens and there is still interest, and I think next year I will probably focus more on using media. social than creating posters and stuff, because it didn’t seem to be as effective. “

Nonetheless, Bixby and Edwards remained convinced that the Share-the-Warmth campaign would allow them to help the community in new and exciting ways, and hope it can set a precedent for greater interaction between the university and the communities. surrounding areas.

“What we’re really determined to do is not just face the community as a club from Wesleyan’s perspective, but be part of both. [the University and Middletown] because we are all residents of Middletown at the same time as we are students, ”Bixby said. “So I think it’s a really important thing to act that way. “

Sam Hilton can be contacted at [email protected]