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A student loads a bag of clothes into a bus.

A student volunteer helps load a bag of donated clothing during the Fill the Bus! event on December 1.

U community gives to Twin Cities charities

By Pauline Oo

From eNews, December 16, 2004

'Tis the season for giving, and giving money and clothes are what University of Minnesota students, faculty, and staff seem to do best each time the holidays roll around.

For the second straight year, faculty and staff on the Twin Cities campus have contributed more than $1 million to help the local community--as of December 14, the U's 2004 Community Fund Drive had raised $1,064,159. The contributions from 4,373 employees were distributed among seven charitable organizations-Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless, Greater Twin Cities United Way, United Negro College Fund, Minnesota Environmental Fund, Community Solutions Fund, Community Health Charities, and United Arts.

"Of our 40 campaigns, the University's Community Fund Drive is now our largest workplace-giving program," says Arna Yetter, executive director of Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless. "With the contribution from University employees, our organization will be able to help thousands of people of all ages throughout Minnesota. This means that when someone needs that bag of groceries from their local food shelf, it will be available. It means that the student who is temporarily living at a shelter will have the basic school supplies needed in school."

The U's Community Fund Drive, which runs during the month of October, dates back to 1931. Each year, more than 200 employees volunteer to assist with the fund-raiser by organizing college- or department-level activities.

In November, U employees turned their attention from their paychecks to their closets and joined University students for the second annual Fill the Bus! clothing drive (called Winter Warmth for U last year).

The two-and-a-half week drive, which culminated in a ceremonial drop off event on December 1, collected enough new and gently used clothing to tightly pack seven University circulator buses. In 2003, its inaugural year, this Twin Cities campus clothing drive filled five circulator buses-four more than the goal--with more than 10,000 articles of clothing.

"It is absolutely inspiring to see young people give so much time and effort to reach out to those desperately in need of our support," says President Bob Bruininks. "This has been part of the spirit of the University for the past 150 years."

The idea for Fill the Bus! was conceived by two University students, Surbhi Madia and John Barber, during a chilly stroll one evening in downtown Minneapolis. Donations from the drive go to Pillsbury United Communities, which then distributes the clothing to local children and families in need.