Fresno Pacific University gives and receives during Christmas

One family reminded many at Fresno Pacific University of the simple truths of Christmas.

Students, faculty and staff collected and delivered food, gifts and a Christmas tree to a local family in December. The residence life staff organized the effort and Esther Klassen-Isaak, counseling coordinator, submitted the name of the family and delivered the goods. “All the work in between—and there was a lot of it—was done by the residence assistants (RAs) and particularly Laura Schaaf,” Esther said.

“We wanted to do a service project with the student resident assistants to build a sense of community among them and help someone in the community,” said Schaaf, a residence director.

An e-mail, fliers and notices in campus newsletters asked for donations. Collection bins were set up in McDonald Hall, the Student Life Office and the dining area of Alumni Hall. Contributions included 180 pounds of food and clothing, 150 gifts, $150 worth of food coupons, a Christmas tree and a turkey. “It took a crew of six people two and one-half hours to wrap it all,” Schaaf said.

Plans are already underway to make this project a tradition. “I think we definitely could have adopted two families and we hope to do that next year,” Schaaf said.

The family consists of a mother, who works as a housekeeper, her 20-year-old daughter, her 17-year-old son, the son’s four-month-old daughter and the baby’s 15-year-old mother. The baby’s maternal great-grandmother, age 80, divides her time between this family and another daughter in Fresno. The adults are from Guatemala and send money to family there.

The woman was very grateful when told she had been selected. “She’s saying God talked to us directly,” Klassen-Isaak said.

As happy as the family was to get much-needed help, they insisted on returning the favor as best they could with a six-layer pan of homemade lasagna. “The idea that we would give them something and them not give us something back—that just doesn’t happen,” Klassen-Isaak said.

Those who contributed took away more than food. “This experience really showed me in a profound way that it is more blessed to give than to receive,” Klassen-Isaak said. “I told my husband, `Christmas is over, I don’t want anything else.’”