News and Events
The Gifting Season: Pepperdine Hosts Holiday Service Projects
The spirit of the holidays stirs in the hearts of the Pepperdine community as faculty, students, and alumni unite for the season of giving. This year, newly-launched service initiatives extended the scope of service to broader avenues of generosity, and purpose-filled members of Pepperdine’s five schools served familiar organizations to express their instinct to give.
Student and Faculty Service
For over 20 years, Pepperdine’s annual Santa Run has been a joint effort between Campus Ministries and the Pepperdine Volunteer Center (PVC) to deliver gifts to children living in dire conditions. Every year, paper ornaments featuring each child’s story are hung on Christmas trees around campus, ready to be picked by students, faculty, and staff. They then provide Christmas presents for their chosen child, which have, in the past, been delivered to partners in Ensenada, San Felipe, and Tijuana, Mexico. This year, Pepperdine continued the tradition by partnering with the Angel Step Inn in Los Angeles, one of the largest non-profit substance abuse treatment centers serving underserved populations in Southern California, to deliver small and inexpensive gifts to children living in these conditions. “The poverty levels that we witnessed in these communities made it apparent that the children would not receive any type of Christmas gift unless we did something about it,” explains Linda Truschke (‘86, MS ‘97), Campus Minister of the University Church of Christ.
The PVC also coordinated the Salvation Army Shopping Spree, which allows children and their families to shop for school clothing and other necessities at a local Macy’s store. Seaver College students participated in all aspects of this initiative, from providing check-in support to serving breakfast, and even assisting as chaperone shoppers. “Events like the Salvation Army Shopping Spree sustain the relationships Pepperdine has with its neighboring communities. To whom much is given, much is expected. We are essentially living out that mission,” says Mattie Gullatt, Seaver College student and PVC Special Event Coordinator.
School of Law students Alexandra Papalia and Jonathon Cherne cochaired a gift drive for Angel Tree, an organization that partners with local churches and prisons to deliver gifts and the Gospel to children of incarcerated parents. Compared to last year’s sponsorship of 80 Angels, and with a generous donation from the Student Bar Association, 101 Angels were sponsored this year.
This year, the Service Committee of the Student Government Association planned an event with the Union Rescue Mission and their annual “Christmas Store,” which allows financially struggling families to “shop” items for free to provide holiday gifts for their children. An online wish list contained items available to purchase by the over 3,000 people who attend every year.
Pepperdine faculty members also participated in service initiatives this season, donating both time and resources to fulfilling the Christmas wishes of needy communities. GSEP Dean Margaret Weber collected toys at her staff holiday party to donate to the Union Rescue Mission/Hope Gardens, longtime partners of the university. “Our goal is to try to respond to other people’s needs while being personally transformed, which I believe is at the heart of Christian service,” she explains.
The giving spirit of the Pepperdine network extends beyond student and faculty contributions, and includes those members who give back to the university community past their graduation. This year, like every other, the Pepperdine Alumni Network (PAN) came together to organize Freely Give for the Holidays, alumni social receptions that encourage donations of canned foods, toys, and other necessities in lieu of a monetary entrance fee. With over 30 chapters in the world, seven in California alone, the PAN organized events throughout the month of December to join Pepperdine graduates in fellowship events that focused on giving back.
Associate Director of Chapters and Regional Programs for Pepperdine’s Alumni Association, Sandra Barsoum (’99), not only prides herself on being a Pepperdine alumnus, but also on organizing initiatives that establish Pepperdine as a service leader in the community. “The fact that we threw seventeen alumni events this year and that there was a service component in all of them – that is the measure of success for me,” she says. This year, under Barsoum’s guidance, the San Diego alumni chapter organized a drive to provide nutritious snack packs to deployed USO troops to sustain them on their long flights.
Waves of Service
Another alumni service initiative that joins the efforts of the entire Pepperdine community is Waves of Service, who celebrated the inauguration of two holiday events this year. Partnering with the Ronald McDonald House for the first time, Waves of Service received donations from a local church whose congregation provided blankets to needy families. Waves of Service also connected with Pepperdine’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on December 2 to set up donation receptacles provided by Hearts of Compassion. The organization, helmed by Pepperdine alumnus John Velasco (‘80), collects food, clothing, and general merchandise to deliver to needy communities across Southern California.
Waves of Service coordinator Anna Shelton explains, “It’s important that Pepperdine includes the community in holiday celebrations to prepare them for lives of purpose, service, and leadership.” She continues, “Pepperdine students, faculty, and staff have the heart to give during the holidays and the initiatives put forth by Waves of Service make sure that those desires produce tangible contributions.”