By Nicole Davis

I have been fortunate enough to be involved with the Joy of Giving Program throughout my decade serving on Staff Council. What started as a fun way to get involved on campus quickly grew into a passion of mine and became something I look forward to each year.

This tradition, formerly known as the Needy Children Program, has directly benefited children in our community for 28 years. What makes it so great is the families it serves are nominated by the Butte County Children’s Services’ social workers and they are not supported by any other charitable organization—so the generosity we share with them truly transforms their holiday.

Many of these social workers I know from my role in the School of Social Work, and some are even former students of ours. I know how dedicated these social workers are to the families they work with, and when they pick up the gifts, there are often tears of joy as they talk about how these gifts will make the holidays so special for the children.

Two staff members smile while standing amid tables filled with wrapped gifts.
The Joy of Giving Program is an all-volunteer effort, from individuals and departments who sign up to sponsor a child to the FMS employees who drive around campus to collect gifts for delivery to the University Farm.

This year my department adopted a family of three. With monetary donations from our faculty, staff, and even friends and family, we have been able to purchase gifts for a 2-year-old girl, 8-year-old boy, and their mother. The gifts include some primary needs such as clothing and diapers but there are also fun items. This year we did some extra fundraising to be able to purchase brand-new bikes for the mom and son and a bike trailer for the daughter to ride in. Thinking about how excited they will be on the day they receive their gifts make my heart burst with joy!

I have always made a point to get out to the University Farm to volunteer on gift drop-off day. If you have ever been out to the farm pavilion, you know what a huge space it is. Arriving early in the morning, it is quiet and cold, with rows and rows of empty tables. As the day progresses and Facilities Management and Services staff begin to show up with truckloads full of gifts they picked up all over campus, the space quickly transforms. By evening when the reception begins, it is warm, music is playing, and cookies and snacks are out. You just look around at the tables overflowing with gifts and are reminded of how incredibly generous our campus community is.

The 2018 Joy of Giving Program was canceled because of the Camp Fire, but the previous year brought in thousands of gifts for 132 children from 57 families. Bikes, toys, clothes, electronics, and so much more were donated so that every child could experience the magic of the holiday season, as well as providing each family with a grocery gift card for more than $40.

The University Farm Pavilion is filled with folding tables covered in wrapped holiday gifts.
After the gifts are unveiled and organized, they are bagged for each individual family and given to a social worker for distribution in time for the holidays.

I have brought my kids to the reception since they were babies. As they have grown and started to understand what it is all about, I make a point to walk them around the room and talk about the families that will be receiving these gifts. For me, the true joy of the holiday season comes from giving, and I hope that they will look back and remember all the years they were a part of this event and carry that spirit forward in their own lives.

This year’s Joy of Giving reception will be the best one yet! Everyone is invited to the University Farm Pavilion from 5–6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, December 10, for refreshments, raffles, and a live performance by the Yule Logs.

I hope to see the room filled with Chico State faculty, staff, students, and administrators! See you there.

Nicole Davis is the student services professional in the School of Social Work. She has worked for the University 11 years and will be graduating this spring with her master’s in social science.