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F&A Spreads Holiday Cheer
What do four local families, including five children, have in common with the Finance and Accounting department at UCF? The Answer: In December these groups became extended family through the Adopt-a-Family program.
Each year, the Finance and Accounting (F&A) department looks forward to giving to strangers over the winter holidays. It began in 2005 when an annual gift exchange among the Financial Support Services (FSS) group evolved into a tradition of seeking out families who could especially benefit from an expression of the season's spirit of giving.
"We asked ourselves, why don't we brighten the holidays for somebody else?" said Varsha Das, an FSS lead applications systems analyst/programmer.
Over the years this has included families who participate in groups like the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Florida and members of F&A who were going through particularly difficult times.
In 2013 Das along with FSS webmaster Kiran Acharatlal guided F&A's efforts to brighten the season for four families, including five children ranging in age from 7 to 17. All the children participate in the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Florida, an organization that serves nearly 13,000 children each year by providing safe childcare that fosters learning, character development, and fitness.
"During Christmas any type of sharing is appreciated," Das said. She understands that giving gifts to the 'adopted' families could mean less for one's own family, which makes her particularly appreciative of the level of giving she has seen from F&A over the years.
F&A members give in a variety of ways. Many from throughout the department took a list of requested gifts with them when they went holiday shopping and spent a little extra time in the crowds searching for something special for the strangers on their list. Others donated cash and let F&A's team of super shoppers loose to find the perfect presents. Still others gave of their services. For instance, the Help Desk crew wrapped many of the items.
"Wrapping the gifts made me feel like I was giving the children a reason to live happily. Imagining a smile on their face after the hardship they must go through was the best motive to help with this program," said Palak Shah, help desk staff member and UCF student.
This year the team was able to provide gifts valued at more than $1,700 to the four families. This included dolls and games for the younger children, clothing, and more than $400 in grocery store gift cards for the parents. In addition, F&A smoothed the road for a young man journeying to college by supplying him with practical items like duffel bags, a microwave, and a laptop.