Staff Council members sort donated gifts for Chico State's 2020 Joy of Giving program.
Story Impact

The Spirit of Giving

Alex Beall

During this festive time of year, the CSU is taking the opportunity to give back to its community.

Staff Council members sort donated gifts for Chico State's 2020 Joy of Giving program.

Staff Council members sort donated gifts for Chico State's 2020 Joy of Giving program.


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The season of giving is upon us. Throughout the year, the CSU works to support students in need with food pantries, clothing closets and other basic needs programs. But in the spirit of the holidays, CSU campuses and the Chancellor's Office ​are enlisting faculty, staff and students to give back to the outside community through food drives, gift donations, volunteer days and more.

Lend a Hand

For a number of campuses, service events gave campus community members a chance to get more hands-on in their giving back.

The Giving Tree, part of the Warriors Giving Back program at Stanislaus State, invited the campus community to “adopt” and provide a special gift for local elementary school children. The campus collected wish list items from the kids, which were then put on tags and hung on a tree in the University Student Center. Community members could then select a tag and purchase the gift from the campus’s Amazon Wish List.

A CSUCI student volunteer helps a woman at the 2015 Holiday Street Store.

A CSUCI student volunteer helps​​ a woman at the 2015 Holiday Street Store.​

There was ​no shortage of w​ays to give back at CSU Channel Islands this year. Among other events, Student Academic Success and Equity Initiatives (SASEI) facilitated a SASEI SERVES volunteer day at a Rescue Food Sorting event, while the Center for Community Engagement will hold its Holiday Street Store with Westminster Free Clinic. The center collects donated items like clothing, shoes and toys, which are then given away in a free pop-up shopping experience for community members in need.

During the annual Chico State Staff Council Joy of Giving program, groups across the campus, from academic departments to athletic teams, are encouraged to “adopt” a local family and provide a selection of clothing and gifts. Last year, the campus supported 41 families and 94 children identified by Butte County Social Services. In years past, drop-off day has involved a celebration at the University Farm Pavilion, though that piece of the tradition was put on hold in 2020. This year, the party will return with a live band and steaming beverages.

“Over the last 29 years, the Joy of Giving program has raised over $100,000 for grocery gift cards for each family participating in our program,” says Tawnie Peterson, Staff Council chair. “We have gifted over 2,000 families in our community a holiday to remember, meeting the families’ immediate needs and granting children’s wishes, while at the same time bringing our campus together with the community.”

Cadets at Cal Maritime are helping keep mariners warm this holiday season with Knitting for Mariners. On Fridays leading up to November 13, a group gathered to knit hats, scarves and mittens that were then donated to the International Maritime Center.

Coordinated by the Forever Humboldt Association, the Winter Wishes program at Humboldt State has involved the HSU community in purchasing toys and gifts for local children for more than 20 years. Last year, alumni, staff, faculty and students gifted more than $12,000 worth through the program’s nonprofit partners.

​ ​ Students volunteer for the Operation Gobble Gobble Turkey Distribution at Cal Poly Pomona.

Students volunteer for the Operation Gobble Gobble turkey distribution at Cal Poly Pomona on November 10, 2021​.

​"W​inter Wishes is such a special program because it allows kids to feel heard and seen during the holidays,” says Stephanie Lane, director of Alumni Relations and Winter Wishes coordinator. “They ask for specific gifts, and sponsors go shopping for exactly what they asked for. It’s personalized, and the sponsors enjoy knowing that they are supporting a specific child in our community."

On November 10, Cal Poly Pomona served as a distribution site for L.A. County Board Supervisor and CPP alumna Hilda Solis’ turkey distribution, ​​Operation Gobble Gobble. Over the course of several hours, campus volunteers gave out Thanksgiving meals to community-based organizations as part of her effort to distribute 1,400 turkeys.

In honor of their late son, Sacramento State staff member Don Nahhas and his wife, Dawn, created the nonprofit Josh’s Heart to care for the unhoused, and in November, they brought a service event to the campus’s Alumni Center. The community filled 10​​0 Winter Blessing Backpacks for the unhoused with toiletries, fleece blankets, food and more, which were then distributed locally. Additionally, Sacramento State students volunteered with Governor Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom to assemble Thanksgiving meals​ at River City Food Bank.

Drive for Good

Campuses also harnessed the generosity of their communities by collecting food, toys, financial donations and more to give to local nonprofits.

San Diego State’s annual Aztecs Rock Hunger food drive—a partnership between Associated Students and Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank—combats food insecurity on campus and within the local community. This holiday season, the campus community participated through both fundraising and food donations. Since 2010, the program has provided more than 3.6 million pounds of food—and this year, the coordinators aimed to raise 619,000 pounds in honor of the region’s 619 area code.

“This campaign is super special because it’s always been a community-based effort that directly touches our local population—our fellow students, friends, families and neighbors,” A.S. Vice President of Financial Affairs Austin Barber says in a press release.

Santa Claus visits a group of preschoolers to give out the gifts donated during CSUDH's 2020 Totes for Tots drive.

Santa Claus visits a group of preschoolers to give out the gifts donated during CSUDH's 2020 Totes for Tots drive.​​

For the ​fifth time, the Center for Service Learning, Internships and Community Engagement at CSU Dominguez Hills organized a Totes for Tots drive to benefit Compton preschoolers. Members of the campus’s early education organization CSUDH Jumpstart then gift the donated toys to more than 200 children during holiday celebrations where Santa makes an appearance.

“Putting together small ​details like decorating, bringing Santa and participating in the toy drive collection warms my heart during the holiday season,” says Totes for Tots coordinator and former student volunteer Natalie Gomez. “Getting to see firsthand the many tiny faces filled with excitement and happiness as they pick and receive their gift is the cherry on top of the entire event.”

Several organizations at CSU Bakersfield mobilized to supply gifts for the community. The Athletics Student-Athlete Advisory Committee held its sixth annual toy drive for the Ronald McDonald House and Toys for Tots while the Student Recreation Center teamed up with the nonprofit CASA of Kern County for its annual Giving Tree Teen Toy Drive. Participating campus community members could select names from the Giving Tree and fulfill their holiday wish lists.

The EPIC Office at Cal State LA and United American Indian Involvement, Inc., (UAII) gave the campus an opportunity to give back to their communities through a food drive and service day. Students, faculty and staff were invited to donate canned goods for UAII’s food giveaway. They could then volunteer to participate in the giveaway during the Cal State LA Gives Back! service event on November 15.

“Now more than ever, it is important for us to emphasize our interconnection through service and engagement,” says Taffany Lim, executive director of the Center for Engagement, Service, and the Public Good. “We are grateful for this partnership with United American Indian Involvement, Inc., and we are so proud of our students who are volunteering their time to give back to the community.”

While kicking off the holiday season with a cookie decorating pa​rty, the Womxn’s Collective Council, Sociology Student Association and Cambodian Student Society at Cal State Long Beach held a food drive. Members of the council then matched the resulting donations and gave them to the Food Bank of Southern California.

Groups at San José State are likewise doing their part to give back. The Lurie College of Education collected socks for the Bill Wilson Center and supported the nonprofit Family Giving Tree, which coordinates a Holiday Wish Drive to gather gifts for Bay-area children. Meanwhile, the César E. Chávez Community Action Center​ hosted a holiday festival for residents of a local transitional housing neighborhood, and the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering participated in a toy drive and fundraising effort for the Sacred Heart Community Center.

In addition, CSUN’s volunteer program United We Serve collected new socks, underwear and board games for the nonprofit Meet Every Need with Dignity; San Francisco State Dining Services collected non-perishable foods for the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank; and the Jack H. Brown College of Business and Public Administration at Cal State San Bernardino is holding its own Christmas toy drive for the More Hope Project mutual aid group​.

Lastly, the CSU Office of the Chancellor is organizing its own programs to give back. Employees can help feed local families through the Food Finders food drive, or donate new books, toys and sports gear as part of the Long Beach Fire Department’s Spark of Love toy drive.

If you’d like to give back to the CSU, visit the Give to the CSU webpage.