UC San Diego News Center


Campus Community Comes Together to Offer Help for Holidays


Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

It’s no secret that, with the down economy and high unemployment rates, many San Diego residents are facing financial hardship, and the holidays can be an especially challenging time of year. It’s also a difficult time for nonprofit organizations, which are experiencing an increase in demand for their services just when the economy is making fundraising more challenging. To help address the needs in our local community, UC San Diego students, staff and faculty are participating in a variety of outreach initiatives—from toy drives and food collections to remembering veterans—to  help San Diegans have a more joyful holiday season.

Throughout the year, public service is a common value shared at UC San Diego. For two consecutive years, the university has been named to President Obama’s Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, and UC San Diego is ranked No. 1 in the nation by Washington Monthly for its positive impact on the country. Last year, the university established Volunteer50 to help connect the campus community with year-round service projects.

holiday outreach

This season, UC San Diego kicked off its holiday outreach efforts by participating in the fourth annual Colleges Rock Hunger Food Drive, donating approximately 2,400 pounds of food to the Food Bank. In addition, last Saturday the Triton Athletes’ Council delivered presents, food and gift certificates to 13 needy families in San Diego as part of an Adopt-a-Family program.

Currently underway, the service-oriented fraternity Alpha Phi Omega is leading “Operation Santa,” an annual fundraising effort to help families in need throughout San Diego County. So far, students and volunteers have wrapped more than 100 presents for families, including many families led by single mothers who are victims of domestic violence, facing illness or experiencing the loss of a family member.

“We can really see the positive impact of our work on these families when we deliver the gifts in person,” said Alpha Phi Omega organizer Miller Huang. “I was fortunate enough to believe in Santa Claus and to have something to open on Christmas Day during my childhood. I want to help as many kids as possible get the same experience.”

Another campus outreach initiatives to get involved with this season is the department of psychiatry’s 12th Annual Toy Drive for the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Inpatient Program (CAPS). CAPS is a department of psychiatry facility that offers in-patient treatment services for children and adolescents who suffer from acute emotional and behavioral problems. For many of the children, the gifts provided by this toy drive are the only gifts received during the holidays. The toys collected during the holiday drive are also used throughout the year for birthdays and as incentives for good behavior.

“For the last eleven years, with generous donations from the employees in our department, we have been able to successfully fill a large car full of toys, games, books, clothes and toiletries for the children and teenagers at the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Services,” said Ling Zenter, human resources manager at the department of psychiatry. “We are all extremely busy this time of year, but it is so rewarding to see how our efforts in the annual toy drive make a difference in these children’s lives, during some very emotionally challenging times for them.”

holiday outreach

Here is a sampling of holiday campus initiatives that you can get involved with:

Holiday Community Outreach Initiatives

From toy drives and food collections to volunteering at a wreath-laying ceremony for veterans, there are many ways that you can join the campus community in giving back this holiday season.

Alumni and Constituent Engagement Adopt-a-Family for the Holidays

The Alumni Constituent and Engagement (ACE) team is creating welcome pantry kits for new families at the Bannister House, a home away from home for families of patients undergoing long-term care at the UC San Diego Medical Center. ACE is collecting donations that will be used to purchase spaghetti, pasta sauce, a brownie mix and other items so that on their first night at the Bannister House, families will have dinner ready to go. For more information, contact or 858-822-4055.

Birch Aquarium Adopt-A-Fish

This holiday season, Birch Aquarium invites the community to remember local marine life. With a gift of $25, you can “Adopt-A-Fish” and help the Aquarium keep its fish thriving and support its successful breeding programs. Each “Adopt-A-Fish” gift comes with an adoption certificate, fish fun facts and a photo of your chosen fish. For more information, visit

Operation Santa

The students of Alpha Phi Omega are leading “Operation Santa,” an annual fundraising effort to help families in need across San Diego County. Students and other volunteers are wrapping presents for more than 100 families who have been nominated to receive food and gifts this season, many of whom have been hit hard by the economic downturn. For more information or to make a donation, contact or visit

Scripps Institution of Oceanography Holiday Drive

Scripps Institution of Oceanography is collecting items for U.S. troops deployed abroad. Please bring bagged or boxed items listed on the Give2theTroops website to the Scripps Administration Building through Dec. 16. Letters and cards to the men and women in service are also appreciated. For more information, email or call 858-534-2831.

Staff Association Holiday Toy Drive

The Staff Association is collecting new, unwrapped toys to give to children at UC San Diego’s Medical Center Burn Center, Infant Care Center, Bannister Family House and the UC San Diego Mother, Child and Adolescent Care program. Donations can be dropped off at the Staff Holiday Pancake Breakfast Dec. 14, 7:30 to 11 a.m. in the Price Center West Ballrooms. For more information, email or call 858-534-1026.

Toy Drive for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Service

The department of psychiatry’s 12th Annual Holiday Toy Drive benefits patients at the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Services (CAPS), a department of psychiatry facility that offers treatment services for children and adolescents who suffer from acute emotional and behavioral problems. New, un-wrapped gifts will be collected through Dec. 16 at the Guava Building in the department of psychiatry. For additional drop-off locations, gift recommendations and other information, please email or call 858-811-0246.

TritonCare Drive for Rachel’s Women’s Center

TritonCare, a group of volunteers from the Office of the Registrar, Tritonlink and Undergraduate Admissions, is collecting donations for Rachel’s Women’s Center. Items needed include women’s clothes (especially professional attire, packaged socks and underwear), children’s clothes, hygiene items, blankets and sleeping bags, backpacks and suitcases, bus passes, stamps, coffee and tea bags, as well as plastic cutlery and disposable cups, plates and forks. Donations can be dropped off at the Office of the Registrar through Dec. 16. For more information, contact or call 858-534-0075.

TritonCare Feeding America San Diego

TritonCare is also hosting a holiday bake sale to benefit Feeding America San Diego, which due to their local and national partnerships is able to turn every dollar donated into six meals for those in need. The bake sale takes place Dec. 13, Noon-4:30 p.m. in Student Services Center Room 260. For more information, email or call 858-534-0075.

Veterans Association Clothing Drive for Homeless Veterans

The UC San Diego Veterans Association is collecting gently worn clothing, hotel samples and cash donations for the Veteran’s Village of San Diego. Please bring donations to the Veterans Association booth at the Staff Holiday Pancake Breakfast Dec. 14, 7:30 to 11 a.m. in the Price Center West Ballrooms. For more information, email or call 858-822-5450.

Veterans Association Wreaths Across America

Volunteers are needed to help the Veterans Association lay wreaths at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in remembrance and honor of U.S. military veterans. The wreath laying will take place Dec. 10 at 8:30 a.m. and will be followed by a formal ceremony beginning at 9 a.m. The event is part of a national program organized by the nonprofit Wreaths Across America. To volunteer and for more information, email or call 858-822-5450.


UC San Diego is proud of the generosity and dedication to service that students, staff and faculty are demonstrating this holiday season, and throughout the year. Your support is making a positive impact in the San Diego community, and beyond. Thank you and happy holidays!