LEWISBURG, WV (WOAY) – The COVID-19 pandemic may have prevented the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) from hosting an on-campus celebration as part of its annual Heart of the Holidays event, but the school still found a way to help local children have a joyful and gift-filled holiday season.
Students in the WVSOM chapter of the national osteopathic service fraternity Sigma Sigma Phi placed two “angel trees” on campus, each adorned with wish lists of foster children in Greenbrier County. Members of the WVSOM community were invited to select a child and purchase gifts for them.
Through this year’s version of Heart of the Holidays, WVSOM students were able to provide more than 130 gifts to 28 local families, including 50 foster children and 30 biological children. Diapers for young foster children were also collected as part of the event.
WVSOM students and staff members presented the gifts to representatives of the Lewisburg branch of the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia on Dec. 8. Additionally, the school provided 100 meals to the Family Refuge Center, a community-based domestic violence center serving West Virginia’s Greenbrier, Monroe and Pocahontas counties, on Dec. 14.
Mark Haft, president of the school’s Sigma Sigma Phi chapter, said students at WVSOM appreciate the chance to serve the community in which they live.
“The town of Lewisburg does so much for WVSOM, and, as medical students, we believe it’s important to give back to the community when possible,” Haft said. “Through the generosity of WVSOM staff and students, we were able to brighten the holidays for these deserving kids and their families. Sigma Sigma Phi was excited to be able to carry on this wonderful tradition during a time when safety guidelines have forced us all to change the way we conduct our lives.”
In past years, Heart of the Holidays brought area foster children and their families to the WVSOM campus for a day of holiday festivities, including a meal and activities such as face painting, a cookie-decorating table and a visit from Santa Claus.
Belinda Evans, WVSOM’s director of student life, said that despite the absence of those activities, she was pleased that the school was able to give back to the community even during a public health crisis.
“Thanks to our compassionate students and employees, Heart of the Holidays was not a casualty of COVID-19 as many other events were,” Evans said. “We weren’t able to provide families hot meals, but we were able to give gifts to all the children. We hope we are able to host this event on campus next year.”