How to give back this holiday season

By Jacqueline Robinson - Staff Reporter

Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy a big feast with loved ones. But for some families, putting food on the table during the holiday season can be a struggle.

Highline's Phi Theta Kappa honor society is helping families in need by hosting its annual Thanksgiving Food Drive until Nov. 18.

This event encourages Highline students to donate any non-perishable foods that may typically be found at a Thanksgiving dinner.

"We deliver the food to Women's Programs on campus, and they distribute it to those students and their families who [are in] need," said Dr. Teri Balkenende, a Highline history professor and the faculty adviser for Phi Theta Kappa.

The Food Drive encourages donations such as canned vegetables and cranberries, instant mashed potatoes and gravy, or stuffing, but all types of foods are welcome.

Expired or perishable foods, and non-food items are not accepted as donations.

Phi Theta Kappa is an international honor society for two-year colleges. Members say Highline's Pi Sigma chapter focuses heavily on service and leadership projects, and it has a long history of helping the community.

"The Thanksgiving Food Drive predates me, and I've been the faculty adviser for PTK for about seven years now," Dr. Balkenende said.

Last year, PTK was able to deliver 35 full bags of groceries to Women's Programs, thanks to the donations from students, staff and faculty.

To make this food drive possible, about 20 to 25 people dedicate their time and energy to the event, Dr. Balkenende said.

"There is a great deal of need for assistance," she said about the holiday season expenses. "I think that the PTK members like to feel that they're doing something that can really help."

Donation bins are located on the first floor of Building 6 outside of Women's Programs; on the first floor of the Library by the circular desk; on second flood of Building 29 by the faculty offices; and by the main entrance on the first floor of Building 30.

Highline students will have several other opportunities to give back to their community during the holiday season.

Highline's state and local government students will be holding their annual bake sale, Change 4 Change, on Dec. 5.

The proceeds from the sale go to the Weekend Backpack program run by the Des Moines Area Food Bank. This program prepares take-home meals for low-income students in the Highline School District.

Some of the schools within the district have more than 90 percent of their student population on free and reduced-price meal plans, organizers of the bake sale say. So, the backpacks may be the only source of food the students get during weekends.  

A lot of people doing a little can add up to big change for people who need help, organizers say.

In previous years, the Change 4 Change project has raised more than $1,000.  

The bake sale will be on Dec. 5, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the second floor of the Student Union, Building 8.

Aside from the PTK Food Drive and Change 4 Change, people can also help fellow students' Christmas wishes come true this holiday season.

The Giving Tree gift drive, organized by the Women's Programs office, provides gifts for the children of Highline students who need some help getting presents under the tree this year.

The Women's Programs and WorkFirst program assistant, Alycia Williams, said the drive helps students.

"The Giving Tree is for our low-income students seeking assistance with getting Christmas gifts," she said.

Now is the perfect time to sign up to be a sponsor, Williams said.

"We ask for sponsors to commit first so that we know how many families we can help," Williams said.

You can be a sponsor in a number of ways. "You can sponsor a whole family or you can sponsor just one child," she said. "Or you can just bring in a toy or a book and we will make sure it gets to a family."

The Giving Tree drive has been a Highline tradition for 12 years and the program served 83 students last year.

One Women's Programs student intern, Marie Harrison, knows first-hand how much of a help the Giving Tree can be.

"The Giving Tree has definitely helped me and my family with the gifts that we received," said Harrison. "This can really help a family that really needs it. It can be depressing to not be able to give Christmas to your children."

The Giving Tree lifted her spirits.

"It took a lot of pressure off of me and lifted my spirits and my children's spirits to know there was something under the tree," she said.

Williams encouraged everyone to give.

"Women's Programs encourages everyone to participate in supporting a family," she said. "We really appreciate your generosity."

The deadline to donate gifts is Friday, Dec. 16.

To be a sponsor, contact Women's Programs on the lower level of Building 6 or email Maria Toloza Meza at

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