With the temperatures dropping and the holiday season approaching, the spirit of giving is plentiful. As part of the annual Pursuit of the Golden Can challenge, sponsored by Kentucky Harvest Southeast, University of the Cumberlands raised 18,513 pounds of food to benefit local food pantries and to put food on the table for families in need.
“During the winter and holiday season, it is wonderful to be able to share our blessings with those who need it,” said Dr. Barbara Kennedy, vice president for academic affairs.
The Pursuit of the Golden Can first began several years ago and placed Cumberlands in friendly competition with Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky. Each year, the winner of the challenge is determined by the pounds of cans collected per the number of students enrolled.
For the first time in the challenge’s six-year history, Cumberlands is bringing the title home to Williamsburg.
“It is my hope that this opportunity, like many we provide, helps our students think about how they can make a difference in someone else’s life,” said Dr. Emily Coleman, vice president for student services at Cumberlands. “The one or two small cans of food they provide is a huge contribution to a family in need.”
To foster competition within the university, the campus divided into smaller teams with the shared objective of helping the community and earning bragging rights.
The Campus Activities Board (CAB) encouraged students to get involved in the food drive by sponsoring a “swag store.” After collecting surplus t-shirts and miscellaneous items from departments around campus, CAB “sold” the items throughout the week in exchange for canned goods. In addition to the store, CAB supplied extra Bingo boards for students who brought canned food to the monthly Bingo night, one of the more popular events on campus. CAB’s efforts raised 1,095 pounds of food.
“It was so encouraging to see our students bring cans to swap for Cumberlands merchandise, but it was even more encouraging when they brought more than what they needed just because they wanted to help out families in need,” said Haley Haygood, a senior from Liberty, Mississippi, and a member of CAB.
Residence halls competed against one another in the Dual of the Dorms, a competition that has encouraged student participation at events around campus all semester. UC’s athletics teams also worked to collect food items with free admission offered to some home football and basketball games in exchange for food donations.
“Students are the most important part of every process,” said Lisa Bartram, director of student activities. “I hope they realize what an impact that will make in our community to the families in need.”
Faculty and staff also joined the competition by dividing into teams, led by the university’s vice presidents. Each team applied a variety of strategies to raise cans – including seeking community donations, selling VIP parking spots in exchange for canned goods and offering a pizza party as an incentive to give. The winning team consisted of the offices of Business, Financial Planning, IT and Development who collected over 6,000 pounds of food.
“The friendly competition and certainly the cause were sufficient to motivate people,” said Chris Rolph, chief financial officer at Cumberlands and a member of the winning team.
“The cabinet members are naturally competitive, so it is not hard to create enthusiasm within each of our teams.”
Additionally, community donation stations were set up at Forcht Bank and Save-A-Lot in Williamsburg. The university also received donations from Aramark, Barnes & Noble, Chartswell, IGA and the Williamsburg Walmart.
Then, once all the cans had been collected, distribution began.
The archery, baseball and football teams transported cans to First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, while Shiner Church of Christ and Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, both in Williamsburg, received 800 and 1,000 pounds of food for their respective food pantries.
“I hope this gives our students some perspective that we have to think beyond ourselves,” said Chris Kraftick, athletic director at Cumberlands. “These community service outreach initiatives are at the core of what makes UC so special.”