The simple joy of Christmas lights will be brighter for more area families this holiday season - thanks to a first-year Lander University tradition called Adopt A Christmas Tree.
The new initiative, led by the offices of Student Activities and Student Affairs, was to arrange for pre-lit artificial Christmas trees to be donated to Lander for trimming and decorating to benefit area families in need. So far, student response to the idea has been something akin to runaway.
"At the beginning of the Adopt a Christmas Tree idea, I expected about 10 organizations to sign up," said Jill Franklin, assistant director of Student Activities & Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life. "But as of noon, Oct. 31, I had 23 organizations committed to decorating trees."
Student organizations will provide the decorations on a total of 26 donated trees, which will be on display from 5-8 p.m. Nov. 28 during Lander's annual Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony on Assembly Plaza.
"The trees will be delivered to the families afterwards," Franklin said.
"And the families/agencies receiving the trees for Christmas will know which student organization donated it."
Adopt A Christmas Tree originated when Franklin was brainstorming ideas to get Lander student organizations more involved in community support and giving. Remembering a similar tradition from her hometown in Pennsylvania, she pitched the idea to Lander's student organizations. "I received great feedback - so I ran with it," she said.
Among the groups, Student Government Association (SGA) and Zeta Tau Alpha (ZTA) sorority quickly got behind the initiative. "All members of SGA are involved in this effort - from donating money to helping with the decorating and taking down the tree and packing it," said SGA President Wesley Hamilton.
Berkley Casey, president of Zeta Tau Alpha, added that all 54 members of Lander's chapter are on board with decorating a Christmas tree for a family in need of one. "We love to give back any chance we get," she said.
Adopt A Christmas Tree is one of three Lander holiday customs that give back to the Greenwood community, along with the annual Tommy Claus toy drive, and the Lander Panhellenic Council's Christmas cards for the South Carolina National Guard.
The trees, toy donation boxes, and Christmas cards will all be present at the Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony, which is open to all Lander students, faculty, staff and Lander alumni. And at this stage, it looks like Adopt A Christmas Tree could be the next Lander holiday tradition to be around for a long time to come.
"Everyone in SGA and ZTA loved the idea of adopting a tree," said Panhellenic president Madison Marriott. "Members are privileged to be at college and part of amazing organizations, so it is important to remember to help others when we can."