Office Careers students make enduring connection with domestic abuse shelter.
Students in Charlotte Kodner’s Office Procedures class and Susan Johanson’s Medical Office Procedures class conducted the Lewis House Holiday Donation Drive from November 27 to December 14, 2007, at Dakota County Technical College to benefit the Community Action Council’s Lewis House, a domestic abuse shelter with locations in Hastings and Eagan, Minnesota.
A Civic Engagement Project, the donation drive collected a huge quantity of clothing, clothing accessories, new toys, nonperishable food, school supplies, personal supplies, and household items from seven drop boxes situated at high-traffic spots on DCTC’s Rosemount campus.
“Our students began the project by intensively researching a lot of charitable organizations,” Kodner said. “They narrowed the candidates down to nine finalists and eventually settled on Lewis House, which provides support and a safe place to live for battered women and their children. That mission moved everyone deeply. The proximity of the shelters also provided opportunities for the students to offer hands-on help.”
A member of Johanson’s Medical Office Procedures class, Stephanie Meier conducted the original research surrounding Lewis House. She contacted the director of the Hastings location and then presented her findings to her classmates, who voted their support.
“My class made me the leader of the project,” Meier said, “and jokingly called me the CEO.” She gave herself wholeheartedly to the drive, spending hours designing fliers and drop box signage, traveling to various locations to collect clothing, managing a neighborhood collection, and organizing donated items at her own home.
Marney Roethle, a student in Kodner’s Office Procedures class, worked behind the scenes to organize the drive. “I mainly made sure everything was sorted properly and sent to the correct houses,” she said. “I heard others talking about the faces they saw when they made deliveries and it touched my heart. I was just glad to be part of something so big and wonderful.”
Another student in Kodner’s class, Tammy Romig went to her manager at Wal-Mart in Apple Valley and asked if the store would donate claims items, or merchandise that had been opened on the shelves by customers. “Everything was as good as new,” Romig said. “I was allowed to collect $360 worth of items. Sam’s Club also donated a $25 gift card.”
Romig, who added that she loved working on the drive, traveled to the Hastings location with fellow students, Sherry Morcomb and Josh Jerome, to sort donations in an unheated garage on one of the coldest days in December.
“The drive was a great way to do something for people,” said Morcomb, who also made bars and cookies, which she delivered personally. “One mom at the house really appreciated our gifts. We were in the kitchen, and I could see that she was trying to keep busy so that she wouldn’t cry in front of her kids.”
Jerome related that the level of dedication and security at Lewis House made a profound impression on him. “I had no idea so many women are living such fragile lives,” he said. “I was more than happy to volunteer on that cold day. I wish I could have done more.”
Margo Doyle, LaDonna Young, and Melissa Vroman made numerous deliveries to the Hastings shelter. They saw firsthand the emotional response to the drive. “The workers were always happy to see what I brought,” Doyle said. Young and Vroman felt the power of the drive when they saw mothers moved to tears at the sight of all the gifts arriving.
Justine Freiermuth, whose mom works as a legal secretary at the Dakota County Government Center, took the donation drive off campus. “I made signs for my mother to bring to work,” she said. “One attorney and several secretaries donated bags of groceries and new toys.”
Anna Voight visited the Eagan shelter and worked for hours sorting clothes and toys. Heidi Pederson and Tina Werner made a lasagna dinner with pie and brownies for dessert while Heidi Brabec baked cookies.
A member of the Medical Office Procedures class, Denise Kulig engaged her own children in the drive, baking cookies and creating holiday decorations for the shelters. “My children learned about the importance of giving,” she said. “The donation drive made the students closer as a group, and I made some really nice friends.”
Jenny Edlund, one of Kulig’s classmates, donated extra time to process and transport articles to the vehicles of volunteer drivers.
Instructor Susan Johanson wished to thank TRiO for providing much-needed storage space and a staging area. “We also wish to thank all the students, faculty, and staff who gave so generously to CAC’s Lewis House,” she added. “For all of us, the donation drive was a wonderful learning experience and a perfect way to help people in need.”
Marney Roethle summed up the drive with a quote from cartoonist and philosopher Scott Raymond Adams:
“Remember, there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”