The assembly line process at SUNY Cortland’s Adopt-A-Family holiday gift-wrapping event on Dec. 1 worked to perfection.
Armed with thousands of dollars in gifts and enough wrapping paper to cover several football fields, SUNY Cortland residence hall directors and resident assistants worked methodically to wrap holiday presents for needy families in Cortland County, where more than 18 percent of children live below the poverty line.
For two hours, the first floor of the Lynne Parks ’68 SUNY Cortland Alumni House served as an elaborate toy workshop. A residence hall director called out the specific item to be wrapped. One resident assistant folded wrapping paper around it; another one placed masking tape in the necessary spots.
All told, the sixth annual Adopt-A-Family event organized by SUNY Cortland’s Residence Life and Housing Office provided $5,700 in wrapped children’s gifts to 16 local families. Both the amount of money raised and the number of families helped were records for the event, according to Cynthia Lake, the associate director of residence life and housing.
“Just knowing that we were able to get kids a few things that they wanted but they might not have been able to have means a lot,” said Courtney Andros, the residence hall director for Casey Tower.
Each staff member in SUNY Cortland’s 16 residence halls was assigned a set of siblings to purchase holiday gifts for. Throughout the semester, the staffs collected funds in every way imaginable.
Andros’ 10-person staff in Casey Tower collected redeemable bottles, cans and loose change for several weeks. Resident assistants also asked for $1 from students who were locked out of their rooms. It wasn’t a mandatory fee, but many students were happy to pay it, Andros said.
“Some kids actually gave more,” Andros said. “They said: ‘Well, I have a $5 bill on me. I don’t need any change back,’ once they found out what it was for.”
SUNY Cortland resident assistants work collaboratively
during the Adopt-A-Family gift-wrapping event Dec. 1
at the Lynne Parks '68 SUNY Cortland Alumni House.
The Casey Tower staff collected close to $250 for its assigned family of five children. That money paid for necessities such as jackets and hooded sweatshirts but it also helped buy Legos, a fishing rod and art supplies.
The night, however, wasn’t all about the material concerns of the holiday season. Several SUNY Cortland alumni attended the Adopt-A-Family event to trade stories and advice with current students.
“Our job is to talk with students and get them to think about becoming active alumni,” said Michael Doughty ’69, a former schoolteacher and administrator who still lives in Cortland. “To me, I really enjoy this.”
Chris Perry Cecconi ’74, a former clinical program director for speech language pathology at Ithaca College, chatted with current students about their teaching portfolios.
“I love working with committed students,” said Cecconi, who lives in Homer, N.Y., with her husband, Richard ’74. “They’re vibrant and just fun to be around.”
The entire event — from the gift-wrapping to the socializing — serves as a much-needed step back during a busy holiday season, Lake said.
“We’re in the time of year where students are so busy, whether it’s with finals or early graduation or student teaching requirements,” she said. “This is a time out where they really just get back to basics. They leave the Alumni House happy. It’s just a feel-good event for everybody.”