Faculty, students and staff come together to make a difference for those in need
The Bohemia campus of Branford Hall made a significant difference in the lives of 6 families this past holiday season. Through the homeless shelters Never Alone Never Afraid (NANA) in Mastic, NY, the campus donated gifts for each of the members of these families. But this is only one example of the generosity the students have demonstrated in recent efforts to support causes they believe in.
Backing the fight against breast cancer
Judy Galen, who is Chair of the Medical Assisting program, works closely with the Student Council, which she says has a strong track record in generating charity donations. She explains that in past years, for example, the campus had hosted a breast cancer fundraiser. “We had stylists from Cactus Salon & Spa in Bohemia come to campus and give the students pink hair extensions, to honor the fight against cancer,” she says. Half of the proceeds from that event would go to the cause, and the other half would pay the stylists for their time.
But this year the members of Student Council wanted to go a different route, selling pink bracelets and holding bake sales in support of the Breast Cancer Walk at Jones Beach in October. The efforts yielded a total of $866, which they donated to the American Cancer Society. Galen has done the walk every year, in honor of her mother and her sister, and this year a group of campus members also walked, under the name the “Branford Hall Crusaders.”
A true Thanksgiving
In November, Galen and Student Council members first began working with NANA for a Thanksgiving food drive. “Their three shelters offer temporary housing to families,” she explains, “to support them in getting their lives back on track. They also serve a lot of single parents struggling to support children.” Galen called to inquire about which of their three houses were in need. They learned about 5 families, and the campus sponsored a food drive in response. The Student Council also organized bake sales to raise funds to fill in any gaps in donations.
“We collected all the necessary ingredients for a Thanksgiving dinner,” Galen says, “and put them together into a basket for each family.” Members of Student Council spent time on their lunch breaks assembling all the donated food into boxes, which they decorated with fall leaves. A moving personal aspect to this story is that the campus was also able to donate to a 6th family—that of a Bohemia student—that had fallen on hard times.
Giving in the holiday spirit
Next Galen initiated the Christmas donation effort by contacting NANA again. This time she learned about 6 families in need, and asked for a list for each family of the ages, sizes, and needs for each member. She then helped students to oversee the effort, pulling together donations of food, clothes, and toys, to make sure that everyone would have a gift to open. “I have kids as well as grandchildren,” Galen says, “and as a single parent my whole life, I know how hard it can be at the holidays to make ends meet.”
“Initially the idea was to get gifts for the children,” she says, “but ultimately we decided to get gifts for all the adults as well.” The fundraising efforts were so successful that the campus was able to fulfill 100 percent of the gifts on the wish lists.
Galen organized the drive by assigning two family members to each class. If the fundraising fell short for a particular family, then the Student Council relied on money they’d raised to fill in the gaps. The students worked together to put all of the gifts into bags and label them according to each family’s wish list.
Commitment of day as well as night students
The group of students that worked together on Student Council this fall to generate the Thanksgiving and Holiday donations have now graduated, but the group’s fundraising efforts are still going strong. Galen says that in December, students in the school’s night program started their own Student Council, which contributed substantially to the holiday donations. She says that currently there are 11 members of the day Student Council, about 15 on the night Student Council, and new members are joining all the time. “The night students raised even more money for the Christmas gifts,” Galen says—enough to purchase a play kitchen for one of the children on the list.
Galen emphasizes how well the Bohemia students came together in this effort. “Two days before NANA was coming to pick up the Christmas gifts, we realized we were missing some items,” she recalls. “I went into several classes to let students know what we still needed, and in one classroom alone students collected $50 within five minutes. They really stepped up and showed their caring, concern, and generosity.”
They also pulled together gifts for the family of that same Branford Hall student that had been a focus of the Thanksgiving drive. “Even though the recipient was anonymous, I think it touched the students all that much more knowing they were helping one of their own,” Galen says. “I tell my students all the time that it’s essential in the medical field to have compassion for those who are less fortunate. I find that many of our students have that quality already.”
Plans for winter and spring initiatives
Even though the holidays are over, this spirit of giving continues today. The Student Council began holding bake sales in mid-January to support its next set of initiatives. In addition to organizing a Student Appreciation Day and Valentine’s Day activities for students on campus, the group is already planning to sell wristbands in support of Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month in March.
Galen says the Student Council has planned fundraising activities for about every other month, well into the spring. They plan to raffle off baskets in honor of the Easter holiday, and the night students are currently at work on a drive to collect coats, gloves, and hats for a local shelter. “The students come up with all the ideas,” Galen says. “I only step in to help out if they need me. They’re so enthusiastic that occasionally I need to gently remind them what the limits are.” The Council meets twice a week, either during the students’ lunch or dinner break.
To honor the efforts of the Student Council members, Galen goes out of her way to acknowledge them. For graduation she prints out certificates of participation for each member, and frames them, in blue for Medical Assisting and burgundy for Medical Billing and Coding—in accordance with the color scrubs they wear as uniforms. “This kind of community service looks good on their resume,” she adds, “but the students do it because they care and want to be personally involved. They love it.”
This article is part of the Branford Hall weekly blog. We care about the personal and professional development of all our students. Find out more about the several professional training programs we offer at ten campuses in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey. Reach out to us today for more information, or call 1.800.959.7599 to schedule a visit.