The Jesuit Tradition in Action: FCLC Students Create Holiday Gift Drive

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By ANA FLOREZ
Contributing Writer

In December 2016, Resident Assistant Allison Gillen, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’18, spearheaded a collection drive that saw a local family receive 11 trash bags filled with Christmas gifts. When the residents on McMahon Hall’s ninth floor approached her last Christmas to give back to the community, Gillen immediately thought of those in the most need—her students at P.S. 205 in the Bronx.

Gillen is Part of the five-year Teachers Program at Fordham and she believes being an RA will help strengthen the way she interacts and communicates with others so she is able to become the best possible teacher. “I want to help and to serve others and I think that being an RA is a great job that a college student can have if they want to help the community that they live in, ” she explained. As a requirement for the Teachers Program, students must work in a school setting each year, and this year Gillen works at P.S 205 on Southern Blvd near the Fordham Rose Hill campus in the Bronx. This past Christmas Gillen and her floor at McMahon Hall felt a need to give back and agreed to “adopt a family” for the holidays. Gillen contacted Jessica Sheehy, the school’s guidance counselor. The family Gillen was assigned to consisted of a single mother of four girls, ages three, six, eight and 12.

Gillen immediately sprang into action by using the floor’s bulletin board to give her fellow floormates a variety of gift-giving options for them to buy for the family. Each room decided on a specific type of gift to get the family, and the gifts varied from gift cards, winter clothes, school supplies, and even a bike and Razor scooters. The teacher-in-training understood that the students were on a college budget, but their generosity exceeded her expectations. When the students pooled in their gifts, they were able to fill up 11 trash bags.

Gillen and some other residents from the floor helped deliver the gifts to the school.  “We told the mother to bring bags to carry the gifts,” Gillen continued, “She came with one Trader Joe’s reusable bag. Meanwhile, we’re here with 11 trash bags filled with gifts, a new shiny bike and Razor scooters. She [the mother] began to cry.”

One of the residents who helped deliver the gifts was Chloe Morrell, FCLC ’19, who had donated winter clothing, art supplies, and pencil cases. Morell was moved by the mother’s reaction, and said it was clear she did not expect such a large amount of gifts. “She was clearly shocked and speechless, ” Morell explained. “It was heartwarming to see how excited the mommy and daughter were … she had to call a friend to bring a van to pick up all the gifts, and the [eldest] daughter had to ride her bike home because there was no more room in the car.”

Morell said the most satisfying part of the entire experience was when she saw,  “her [the mother] bringing the tote bag, expecting only a couple of things and then seeing how much we got them.” She elaborated, “That was really rewarding, and it made me very emotional because it was hard to comprehend what she was expecting and it was nice to exceed her expectations.” Morell also spoke of the bonding experience that the donation resulted in. Even though she knew everyone on the floor, “riding up to the Bronx early in the morning and lugging bags,” was a nice way to come together as a group.

Gillen added,  “Realizing how many great people go to Fordham and how we have all of these Jesuit values that we are trying to instill through our residence and through the community, and for me as an RA it was just so amazing to see all of these people come together for these four little girls, that no one has ever met, or seen a picture of, purely just going off from what I’m telling them.”

Gillen said that the students generosity not only amazed the family and the staff at the school but believe they inspired other RA’s who want to be more involved in their community as well. The students plan to make this a tradition and RA’s from other floors plan to become part of this tradition next year.