Despite the challenges posed by the worldwide pandemic, Southern Arkansas University continues to engage its service area with holiday traditions aimed at reaching the neediest in our community.

According to a press release, for the 20th year, the Annual Residence Hall Association Turkey Dinner provided a traditional Thanksgiving meal, including turkey and all the trimmings. SAU Housing partners each year with the Stew Pot, which is sponsored by the First United Methodist Church of Magnolia, to host the event. This year, about 350 Columbia County residents picked up meals. Sandra Martin, director of SAU Housing, said the event observed all COVID-19 safety protocols.

Southern Arkansas University departments, organizations, and individuals donated 24 turkeys. Desserts were made and donated by faculty and staff members from across campus. Emily Ford, Ty Ragan, Katie Heese, due Bryant, and Jacob Misenheimer helped prepare the to-go plates.

The Angel Tree is another SAU Housing department program meeting the needs of the underprivileged in Columbia County. This year, Angel Tree applications have moved online, with several families yet to be adopted. In light of COVID, there is no physical Angel Christmas Tree this year. All interactions with adopted families will be contact-free.

Angel Tree makes Christmas great for children in Columbia County. Gifts are due by 5 p.m. Dec. 10. While no specific amount is required to be spent on each child, $50-$75 is suggested per child.

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The Angel Tree serves children in need from infancy through high school seniors by providing sponsors with information about each child’s age, gender, sizes and gift requests. It also serves as an engine to the local economy. Conservative estimates suggest that sponsors donate more than $40,000 in clothing, toys and electronics every year.

SAU has offered the Angel Tree since 2008. From 2008-2013, it was coordinated by two student organizations, Lambda Alpha Beta (the Chemistry Club) and Sigma Tau Delta (the English Honor Society).

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