The approach of Thanksgiving may serve as a reminder to think of and help other people, but a group of 12 students in Dr. Neil Boyd's Management and Organizational Behavior class at Lycoming College have been in the spirit of giving since September.
The students, who have formed the Agape Consulting Co., have partnered with the Salvation Army to help carry on the Breakfast with Santa event that was created in the same class last year.
The event, which is held at the Salvation Army, is open to the community. It includes a breakfast cooked and served by volunteers, and offers activities, crafts and gifts for children, along with plenty of opportunities for pictures and visits with Santa Claus.
JAMIE PAWLICK/Sun-Gazette Correspondent
Lycoming College students who are members of the Agape Consulting Co. are, front row, from left, Amber Schuetrumpf, Brooke Gessner and Stephanie Goldberg; center row, Kari Schaller, Gia Fischetti, Tim Chiarolanza and Ray Bierbach; and back row, Allison Lyke, Forrest Borod, Rob Wilson, Jim Daley and Jackie Oliva.
"Everybody who came last year had a wonderful time," said Maj. Marie Harris, the Salvation Army's officer of community relations and program development. "It's great to see people bring their kids and have a good time while knowing that they are helping other families."
The proceeds from the event are going to the Santa Fund, a joint program between the Salvation Army and the Williamsport Sun-Gazette that was created to raise awareness about poverty in the area. The money raised at Breakfast with Santa will provide assistance to families struggling with financial difficulties, ensuring that they have food and presents for the holidays.
This year, the event also will support Project Breakthrough, a self-sufficiency program designed by the Salvation Army that helps adults and families overcome the problems keeping them from working and building their lives on their own.
The goals of the participants range from earning a GED to affording a steady place of residence, and each person is put in contact with a mentor who encourages and guides them toward those goals, Harris said.
By assisting a nonprofit organization like the Salvation Army in producing a positive outcome in the community, the student members of Agape Consulting are engaging in "action learning," a method that is defined as "a continuous process of learning and reflection with the intention of getting something done," Boyd said.
While fulfilling the goals of the course, they also are highly focused on accomplishing their goals for the event. With this year's Breakfast with Santa, the students hope to see 300 guests attend the event and raise at least $1,200 for the Santa Fund.
"The class allows us an opportunity to put what we have learned to the test in real-world situations while helping the community," said Brooke Gessner of Agape Consulting. "Through our project, I hope that we can truly help the Salvation Army and provide a fun event for local families and their children."
Their responsibilities go far beyond the breakfast itself, encompassing all of the tasks that must be completed in order to make the consulting group as successful as the event it is facilitating.
Along with the main needs of food, presents and decorations, the students also said they are in charge of forming their own budget, advertising, making and selling tickets, even making their own business cards.
By breaking themselves into subcommittees, they are able to equally share the labor and keep the process running smoothly.
"My favorite part of the class is definitely the service project," said Gessner, who is part of the Project Plan subcommittee. "Although it can be difficult at times, the chance to work directly with a nonprofit organization is awesome."
Of course, when it comes to the Salvation Army, they have Harris to help them out.
"I love working with the students," she said. "They get to give back to the community. Seeing the results and impact of that is the most rewarding thing."
Harris was pleased with the outcome of the event last year and hopes for even more support this year. Now that it is established as a successful and significant event, she believes it will stand out in the minds of members of the community.
This, combined with word of mouth from last year's guests and the marketing plans of Agape Consulting, sets up this year's breakfast as a promising continuation of a beneficial tradition implemented and carried on by those who care about making a difference, Harris said.
Breakfast with Santa will be held from 9 to 10:45 a.m. Dec. 4 at the Salvation Army, 457 Market St.
Tickets cost $7 for adults and $5 for children and may be obtained at the Salvation Army.
For more information, contact the Salvation Army at 326-9187 or Agape Consulting at agapeconsult firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pawlick may be reached at life@ sungazette.com.