CHESTERTOWN—The Washington College community showed its holiday spirit and generosity by collecting bags of toys for 250 local children from economically disadvantaged families as part of the Adopt-a-Bear program. A Christmas tree in Hodson Hall Commons was the collection point where students and staff piled festively wrapped toys—and some shiny new bicycles—to brighten the holidays for some local families.
At the start of the outreach project, that same tree held 250 paper tags shaped like teddy bears and containing information on a particular child’s age and interests or needs. Students and others on campus chose a bear tag and then shopped, sometimes jointly with teammates, club members or friends. The Alpha Omicron Pi sorority, for example, adopted three “bears” from the tree.
Founded 20 years ago by Easton residents Klaus and Anne Liebig, the Adopt-A-Bear program offers individuals, groups and businesses a way to reach out to the less fortunate in Kent, Talbot, Caroline and Queen Anne’s counties during the holidays. Washington College alumnus Heather Tinelli ’94 is treasurer of the toy drive and coordinates the distribution of tags to participating groups.
Beth Anne Langrell, the College’s director of student development, brought Adopt-a-Bear to Washington College five years ago and has been thrilled by the response from the campus community. Washington College is now the largest contributor to the project. The gifts left under the tree are picked up by volunteers each day of the drive, stored briefly in a local warehouse, and then distributed to the families the week before Christmas.
This year’s gift drive was sponsored by the Washington College Office of Student Development, the Service Council, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the sisters of AOII, and the Student Government Association’s Community Service committee.
"I am so proud of the students, faculty and staff for the generosity that is shown each year with the project,” says Langrell. “ I can still remember the first year, when I agreed that we would adopt 50 bears, and I worried about whether we would reach our goal. Now we are up to 250 bears, and the bears were all taken off the tree in the first three days! That is a true testament to the spirit of our students, faculty and staff. My sincerest thanks to everyone who participated!"
In a separate effort organized by Kent & Queen Anne's Alumni Chapter co-chairs Chuck Waesche '53 and Deeann Jones '92, area alumni, along with members of the College’s 1782 Society, brought unwrapped toys to the chapter’s annual holiday party. This year the party was a “Meet the President” event held December 11 in the president’s residence, the Hynson Ringgold House, and included members of the 1782 Society. Assistant Vice President for Alumni Relations, Lorraine Polvinale ’69 said more than 120 people brought at least one gift to be distributed through the Toys for Kent County Kids program. “This is an annual community service project for our local alumni, and every year they have given generously,” she commented. “It was wonderful to see the enormous pile of toys under the Christmas tree at Hynson-Ringgold House.”
Pictured, top, the tree at Hynson Ringgold House is surrounded by gifts donated by Kent and Queen Anne's County alumni and members of the College's 1782 Society. Bottom, some 250 children received gifts from the campus community as part of the Adopt-a-Bear program.