A group of concerned students has embarked on a mission to collect toiletries and supplies, assembling ‘Blessings in a Box’ to distribute to displaced residents of Suffolk County during the holiday season.
Spearheaded by the Pre-Physician Assistant Club, with assistance from the Department of Occupational Therapy and the Respiratory Care Program in the School of Health Professions, students and staff collected items to donate to the Keep the Change organization, led by Pamela Robinson-Allen, MD. Keep the Change distributes the care boxes to residents of nine shelters throughout Suffolk County.
After collecting donations, about 50 students and staff gathered to paint and decorate boxes with holiday scenes and messages and to fill the boxes with donated essential items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and socks. This year the group will donate about 150 boxes, the highest number yet, though they have exceeded 100 boxes each year for the past three years.
Lacey Kaufer is a senior majoring in health science, and serves as president of the Pre-PA Club. “Most of what we do is community service oriented because we think it teaches a lot of skills that we don’t necessarily get in the academic setting,” she said. “We like to give back to the local communities rather than somewhere where we don’t know exactly where our time and energy is going.”
Students also enjoy taking a break from studying for finals to paint and to socialize with friends. “It’s a tradition at this point. We do it every single year,” said Jonathan King, a senior health science major and vice president of the Pre-PA club. “Not just giving back to the community, but it’s also a way that all these students take a break from all our classes because finals week is coming.”
“It’s something I look forward to every year, we have a big group working together, listening to music and having fun while we decorate and put together the boxes,” King added.
Community service is a priority for the Pre-PA Club. The group hosts three events a year at HELP Suffolk, the only transitional residence in Suffolk County for displaced families. In the spring, the club organizes a field day for children living in the residence, followed by a Halloween party and holiday party in the fall and winter. Club members lead crafts, games and dance parties for the children.
“Physician assistants, as much as they are healthcare professionals and medical professionals, are community members. We recognize the importance of giving back, and that is our goal and why the club was created in the first place,” said Kaufer.
— Beth Squire