Helping Others at the Holidays and Throughout the Year

One of my favorite aspects of the holiday season is the emphasis on helping others. It is everywhere we turn, and we are constantly reminded of the extraordinary opportunities we have to help others in some truly extraordinary ways. Whether through service clubs, churches, shelters, or other non-profit organizations, lending hands to our fellow citizens during the holidays is something that fortifies me during this hectic time of year. Indeed, I am inspired by the sheer numbers of people in our community who want to help meet the needs of those less fortunate among us.

Many of those whom we assist with our charitable giving at this time of year have needs that persist throughout the year, and while this season of giving brings the needs of others into sharper focus, it is incumbent on us to be charitable throughout the year and not just in the last few weeks of December.

I am fortunate, indeed I am blessed, to have the opportunity to serve our community and region every day through my work at Dalton State College. Many of our students and their families endure financial hardships that make attending college more challenging than it would be otherwise. We all know students who cannot afford to buy enough food to sustain them after they pay their tuition and purchase their textbooks. We even know students who attempt to complete courses without purchasing textbooks because of the financial strain.

At Dalton State, we are proud to be able to address this significant financial need through the University System of Georgia’s Affordable Learning Georgia initiative, an avenue that allows faculty to develop or identify low-cost or no-cost textbooks for use in their courses. This helps increase student success rates – and isn’t that what we are all about? – by ensuring that they can afford the necessary books.

Our aptly-named Birdfeeder food pantry also assists students who don’t have enough to eat. You can’t learn if you are hungry. Campus faculty and staff, local churches, and other families in our community provide canned goods and boxed foodstuffs for the benefit of our students who need to stretch their grocery dollars. We even know of individuals who provide home-cooked meals to students who stay on campus over holiday weekends when other students go home to visit family and friends.

In addition to these tangible expressions of support for students, we are able to provide scholarships to approximately 360 students per year. In this academic year, we provided 191 academic and need-based scholarships valued at $277,000 to 170 students, and we awarded $365,000 in athletic scholarships to nearly 100 student athletes.

We are able to offer this kind of financial support to students only because of the generosity of our donors, and we are grateful throughout the year for the donor support our students enjoy. More than once I have heard students say how much it means to them that someone believed in them enough to help them pay their way through college with a scholarship. Scholarships change lives, and nowhere is that more powerful or relevant than at Dalton State.

The entire campus community benefits from philanthropy’s impact here with donor interest in our high-quality faculty, safe and modern facilities, state-of-the-art technology, and additional services such as our new student health center, our fitness and recreation areas, and our residence hall. These help ensure that our students have successful and outstanding academic experiences that propel them to graduation and beyond.

Personally, I experience some real holiday magic when I see our current students and recent graduates giving back to this community which has been so generous to Dalton State. We recently hired a graduate who had been working at a local insurance firm. The firm’s owner has been very vocal and quite complimentary of our alumni as employees, but we stole this one from him. We really didn’t steal her, though, because I like to think she was always ours and she was only on loan to him. Regardless, she is contributing to the community that supported her dreams of a college education and a career that will help support her young family. Incidentally, her husband is also a Dalton State alumnus, thus keeping it all in the (Dalton State) family.

I am personally enriched by the many ways in which I see Dalton State making a difference and having an impact in the lives of so many students and alumni. It can be hard sometimes to quantify how donors’ gifts make a difference here, but I see these differences every day from my lucky vantage point as president of the best college in the world. Serving our students and our community as president of our college is a blessing and a privilege, and I count it as an honor to witness the development of our students as the future leaders of our community.