November 18, 2005

Elves Charity Matches Needy Kids With Gifts

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This holiday season, caring people from Cornell and the rest of Ithaca will assist needy children as part of the Elves Program.

Created in 1990, the Elves Program identifies children who are in need of winter items and gifts for the holidays. Nurses and social workers in area elementary schools help identify children who have the greatest need. The “Elves” are students, staff and faculty who participate in the program to purchase and wrap gifts for these needy children.

Gifts range from essential clothing items to winter jackets, toys and books. Bags of gifts are delivered to the school. Both the anonymity of the children and their families is protected.

“The Elves Program helps the neediest children in the area during the winter holidays, trying to bring them some hope for the coming year,” said Bill Alberta, associate director of Cornell Career Services. Alberta is the program’s founder and organizer.

“With the help of school nurses and school psychologists in the area, we identify the children with the greatest need,” said Alberta. “It is then our goal to buy every child about $100 worth of gifts from our checklist.”

The children do not have to be affiliated with any particular religion.

“We have not one penny of overhead. This program is solely for the children,” said Alberta.

“The Elves Program began when members of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Office of Academic Programs decided that our own office party gift exchange was unnecessary,” said Alberta. He explained that the office members decided to pool their money and donate it to needy children instead.

“The first year we had one school and we helped about three or four children. Every year it has grown tremendously. Last year we worked with 23 schools and helped over 524 children,” Alberta said.

Shopper Elves, Delivery Elves and Wrapper Elves are all members of the Cornell community who assist in providing needy children with holiday joy each year.

The Elves Program will help children from over 25 schools this holiday season.

“The amount of students who need Elf assistance has increased every year. It keeps on growing,” he said.

“It’s a tough year. People who are at the bottom of the scale economically need more this year than ever. We hope to help at least as many children as last year. We just keep looking for the Elves and try to assist as many needy children as possible,” said Alberta. Lambda Pi Eta, the National Communication Honor Society is the only student-run organization that is an Elf leader, sponsoring children. Sylvia Duran ’06, president of Lambda Pi Eta, said “LPE is working with the Webb Learning Center to help sponsor as many children as possible. We’re helping children, some of teenage mothers who can’t afford to buy their children winter clothes.”

Elves receive a profile for the child with a checklist of items and shopping guidelines.

“We are in charge of organizing the shopping, wrapping, and delivery of all the gifts,” said Duran. “We try to buy clothing since the kids have so little and wear out the new outfits so frequently,” said Duran.

It costs approximately $100 to sponsor a child.

“Last year I went around my dorm and asked people for a dollar or two. I was able to raise $120 for a child within a matter of hours. This even allowed me to buy one or two toys in addition to all of the new winter clothes,” said Duran.

Several sororities and fraternities and other organizations on campus will be sponsoring children.

“LPE helped about 26 or 27 children last year. We hope to increase the number this year,” said Duran.

“The most important items to buy are warm winter clothes such as socks, pants, shirts and jackets. We hope the really young kids have clothes that will last for a while. Especially in a place like Ithaca where it gets really cold, it’s essential that these children get hats and gloves to keep them warm,” she said.

“We don’t care what holiday they celebrate; the point of our program is to bring some warmth to their lives for the winter,” Duran said.

Archived article by Allison Markowitz
Sun Staff Writer