By Anna Lynn Spitzer
January 6, 2005 -- UC Irvine's Calit² staff delivered some holiday cheer to two UCI students and their families last month. The staff adopted the students through UCI's Verano Holiday Project, a program in its 14th year of operation that is coordinated by the campus's Academic and Professional Women organization.
The 10-member Calit² staff donated clothes, toys and food to the two families, who had supplied "wish lists" in advance. Irvine division's Assistant Director of Operations Lorrie Minkel coordinated the Calit² effort. She gave each staff member a copy of both families' wish lists, and set up baskets for each family in her office. The entire staff participated in the shopping, and many spent a morning wrapping and labeling the gifts. Several staff members delivered the overflowing gift baskets on Dec. 17, a week before Christmas.
Both families - each of whom was facing tough circumstances, including illness and unforeseen expenses - expressed heartfelt gratitude for the generosity. "I would like to thank you for adopting my family for the holidays," wrote one recipient, who is completing his graduate work in biomedical engineering. "As I told the nice folks who stopped by (last month), it has been a nightmare year for my family and me. To have such kindness shown to us has just been awesome and so unexpected. I did not expect so many presents, or so much food."
That sentiment was echoed by Julieta Cruz-Ambriz, a single mother of a five-year-old daughter, who also helps to care for her 10-year-old brother due to her parents' illnesses. "I'm very, very grateful," Cruz-Ambriz, a social ecology student, said. "My brother was happy, my daughter was happy, and my parents were happy. We couldn't have asked for anything else."
Calit² staff members were equally touched by the project. "There's nothing more rewarding than seeing the gratitude on the faces of these students," said Lisa Rehbaum, Irvine division's financial manager. Executive Administrative Analyst Andrea Bell-Wheelans concurred, adding, "It was very humbling."
A total of 17 families were adopted by departments across campus.