By: Rosemary Boeglin <email@example.com>
Writing out your wish list, rushing to get everything wrapped, opening presents under the tree. Isn’t that what the holidays are all about?
For Evanne Offenbacker, founder of a charity organization and senior, the holidays carry a different connotation.
“I started an organization called ‘Straight 2 the Streets’ and it’s a group of myself, friends, whoever. We go downtown, hangout and give back to the homeless of Indianapolis, especially during the winter season, because it is so cold,” Offenbacker said.
Interpersonal relations teacher Jill Birk said that giving can be a very rewarding experience for both sides. “In general, people, when doing something for others without expecting something in return, get a reality check to appreciate what they take for granted and It puts things in perspective. People get wrapped up in their own lives and problems and forget there are others out there who have it worse off,” Birk said.
Offenbacker said, “Some people give and are full of themselves. It gives people a different realization than ‘write a list to Santa,’ which might be what they were taught as a child. Society shows and tells us that’s what the seasons about. People walk by us helping out downtown and think ‘Hey, I can totally do that, too.’”
Although Offenbacker chooses to go downtown to give back, Senate sponsor Michelle Foutz has been active in organizing Care to Share, which gives students the opportunity to give back through the school.
The Senate adopts families through ‘United Christmas Service’, which works with families that are in financial need. They determine eligibility of the families and then different groups “adopt” them for the holidays. “We adopt about eight families, we buy all the things they need and what they would like to have for Christmas. We buy shoes, a coat, a hat, gloves, and some clothes for each person, and then toys for the kids. Sometimes there are other requests, like bedding or kitchen supplies, they just tell us what they need,” Foutz said.
Similarly, Foutz says she thinks that giving is important for student’s comprehension of the holiday season, “Community service is important, but it’s not a requirement. It does give students the opportunity to experience it early on, a commitment to service. (Care to Share) is a great program and through the years lots of families have benefited.”
According to Foutz, the Care to Share program, which has been a tradition here for over 20 years, has always been successful, but this year the rules have changed.
“Care to Share has always done really well,” she said. “Some SRTs have really gotten involved. Part of the problem when giving assignments to SRTs is that some choose not to participate. We don’t know until the day before and then have to run out and buy what was on that families list. This year we’ve changed it so SRTs let us know if they’ll participate or not. It allows for less stress for us at the end since we know what each assignment will purchase.”
Offenbacker and her charity group are currently preparing for the holidays. “For Christmas we have this cool idea to give them a Christmas, but then thought, ‘What if they’re Jewish?’ so we decided to do unreligious. My friend got all of these ‘man-bags’ from her dad through a conference from work. We decided we’d fill these with shirts, jeans, socks, that type of thing, that way we can give it more as a gift,” Offenbacker said.
Concerning a person’s perception of the meaning of the holiday season, Birk said she believes these values are instilled in a person when they’re young. She said, “It all goes back to the basis of what parents are teaching kids from an early age about the season. ‘Do they help in the process?’ ‘Are they part of the giving?’ It’s more of what is taught and if the children understand (the poverty that) is out there.”
Birk, Foutz and Offenbacker all said they felt materialism plays an integral part in the holiday season.
Foutz said, “People get so caught up in material things at this time of year, and what they want. Family is important, giving is important and this is a time to reflect on what we have and because we are so lucky it is important to try to help out those who don’t have what we have. (Care to Share) families often live without heat and basic necessities.”
Similarly, Offenbacker said that the materialism of Carmel is really apparent at this time. “Personally, it’s different, but living in Carmel I see a lot of materialism,” she said. “How my family lives, we don’t overuse money. It’s frustrating and it’s hard to think about what I want. One of the hardest things is shopping because I know I can use the money to help others. It’s definitely a tug of war through the entire season.”
Conversely, Birk said she does not think it is a Carmel downfall in particular to be materialistic during this holiday season, “Carmel is stereotyped, like in so many other ways. When it gets right down to it, Carmel really isn’t much different than other places.”
In the end, Birk, Foutz and Offenbacker all said that for a number of different reasons, giving is an important action for people, especially students, to participate in.
“It’s important that we, especially as young people, keep doing (charity work) so other people can realize they don’t need everything they want. There is a big difference between wants and needs. Indianapolis does have a poverty problem, even if it’s not as big as places like New York. It’s really, really cold outside. I mean cold, and we complain about walking up the trail while these people sleep and live out there.”