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A Michigan Ross Tradition: The Holiday Sharing Program

A great example of community and impact at Michigan Ross is the seventh annual Holiday Sharing Program, which wrapped up earlier this month, filling every request for the 29 children in nine families from Ann Arbor Public Schools. In addition, extra donated money was used to purchase gift cards for other students’ needs. All of this was accomplished through the generosity of the Michigan Ross community and the dedication of volunteers from across the school who coordinated the program with AAPS.

The Holiday Sharing Program has been a Michigan Ross tradition since 2016 and helps to benefit families in need who are affiliated with AAPS. It was an initiative started by Dean Scott DeRue and was run by the Office of the Dean until 2022. Since then, it has been managed by Cheryl denBroeder-Kelly, student affairs program manager for One-Year Master’s Programs, who helps rally volunteers and oversee all the moving parts.

Each year, AAPS contacts Michigan Ross to confirm if the school would like to participate in the gift drive. Jennifer Lehrer, assistant director of alumni engagement in the Office of Advancement, has volunteered as the AAPS liaison in recent years. Lehrer receives the list of anonymous families and children and passes it on to Annette Ferguson, associate director of employer relations in the Career Development Office, who puts together a Signup Genius form to send to all faculty and staff.

“Ann Arbor Public Schools sends us a list from the parents,” said denBroeder-Kelly. “They are very specific about the age, what they are asking for and needing, and the sizes.”

The generosity of faculty and staff

Once the program is announced to faculty and staff, individuals from across the school can commit to purchasing any of the gifts on the list. According to denBroeder-Kelly, many faculty and staff know to sign up within the first hours in order to get the first choice of gifts.

“I’m always humbled by how generous our staff and faculty are,” said denBroeder. “This year, fifty percent of the gifts were spoken for within the first hour.”

While some people will purchase gifts or make a monetary donation individually, some units will commit to buying gifts collectively. For example, instead of a Secret Santa gift exchange, each year, the One-Year Master’s Program pools their money and goes on a holiday outing to purchase their gifts for donation. Additionally, for the past couple of years, the Executive MBA Program has taken a donation from current students to purchase gifts.

After the gifts are purchased, they are brought to Holiday Sharing Program volunteers at drop-off locations around the school. The day before the Ross Holiday Party, all gifts are brought to the Tauber Colloquium Board Room and sorted for wrapping. Anyone who attends the Holiday party is invited to help wrap the gifts.

This year, denBroeder-Kelly had 32 faculty and staff volunteers who helped with the program in various ways, including communications, coordinating with AAPS, gift collection, sorting gifts, overseeing the gift-wrapping room, transferring gifts to the loading dock, or delivering the gifts to the local schools.

While the Holiday Sharing Program entails a lot of work and organization, according to denBroeder-Kelly, it is also very rewarding, and she hopes to see it continue for many years to come.

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