Orange Santa toy drive serves UT families in need

Catherine Marfin

Beginning Saturday, eligible families will be able to shop for holiday gifts at the “Orange Santa” holiday store.

Orange Santa is a campus-wide toy drive that began in 1994 and has continued as a University tradition. The Orange Santa holiday store allows participating students and families to shop for gifts for members of their immediate family. Focusing on University faculty and staff whose financial situations would not otherwise allow them to shop for the holidays, the store is stocked with gifts and toys that are donated by students and faculty through the Orange Santa toy drive on campus.

Donation areas can be found at over 20 collection stations across campus. Friday is last day to donate toys before the store opens.

“Not everyone has the opportunity to have a gifted holiday season,” speech and language pathology junior Amy McCoy said. “It’s important to help others during the holidays, both because it’s rewarding, but also because it reminds you that not everyone is as fortunate as you may be.”

Sponsored by the Office of the President, Orange Santa is a collaborative program involving various University units, as well as students and faculty across campus. Orange Santa partners with the Hispanic Faculty and Staff Association, which is promoting a companion project that also helps families facing financial difficulties.

The Orange Santa holiday store is restricted to current UT faculty and staff. For eligibility, UT students and faculty must fill out an online application, and if selected, will a receive shopping appointment during which they can buy gifts. The holiday store will be open in the Thompson Conference Center from Dec. 5–7.

“It’s so rewarding watching UT’s students and faculty take care of their own,” Susan Threadgill, director of productions for University Development Office, said. “Seeing the joy and relief on the parent’s faces is so fulfilling.”

Last year, the Orange Santa program served 316 families, including 957 children. According to Melissa Huddleston, University Development Office project manager, the drive serves at least 300 families yearly. This year, Orange Santa hopes to provide two toys to each child on each application.

“It’s heartwarming to see how our community recognizes that during this special time of year, many of our colleagues may be struggling,” Huddleston said. “Contributing or volunteering for Orange Santa is one way we can both help the UT community and help ourselves to have a brighter holiday.”