By Ryan O’Connell
On a cloudy, cold November afternoon, Sarah Ripton floats between tables deployed by the Maynard Parking Lot, behind West Hall.
One of the folding tables is covered in an array of QR codes - links to local nonprofits, volunteering signups, and a way for students to donate unused meal swipes to commuters missing a meal plan through Sodexo.
When she isn’t talking to passing students, alumni, and faculty, Ripton is making sure a range of crafts are ready for passersby to participate in - painting, jewelry making, and blanket building to name a few.
These opportunities - not only a chance to relax and stretch creative muscles - are part of a larger celebration of National Philanthropy Day, recognized Nov. 15, and hosted by the Office of Development and Alumni Relations.
Ripton, the coordinator of student support and advocacy for the Dean of Students Office and the single point of contact for basic needs security, is the only staff member running the Rams Resource Center, which the Philanthropy Day focused on highlighting.
The resource center, operated by the Dean of Students Office, is receiving help this semester from two interns and two student workers, she said.
“I have support from student workers who are phenomenal,” Ripton said.
She added the interns are funded by the “ending campus hunger grant” and are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Rams Resource Center, which also receives help from the two student workers, employed through work-study.
Ripton said not only was Philanthropy Day a good way to highlight and celebrate the resource center, but also the partnering businesses which help it operate.
She said Circle of Hope, a local organization in Massachusetts, for example, donates amenities and specialty orders to the Rams Resource Center, which can include specifically-colored pants or special bedding.
Ripton added most recently the organization donated a number of new coats to the resource center, which were on display Nov. 15.
“[Circle of Hope] They’re amazing. They do countless things for us,” she said.
Ripton also mentioned Dignity Matters, another local nonprofit, which has helped stock the resource center with feminine care products in their “menstruation station,” and support the supply of these products in residential buildings.
She added Family Promise, from Natick, helps stock the center with blankets and socks, as well as in supporting students who are raising children while they attend university through budgeting programs.
Ripton said Daniel’s Table and Stop & Shop have also been helpful in supplying food to the resource center in the form of single-portion and family-sized meals from Daniel’s Table, and all food purchased by the University coming from Stop & Shop.
She said this was the first celebration of National Philanthropy Day and the Rams Resource Center, and was organized by the Office of Development and Alumni Relations in celebration of the center and its partnerships.
Ripton said the crafting stations are for items people can make and then donate directly to the resource center, making it an inclusive event.
“We wanted to make that really possible because Framingham State is a high-need population. And so if a student can’t get to the store because they work several jobs and they’re paying for school and doing 10,000 other things, let’s have those crafts here,” she said.
She added, “What do we need? We need warm blankets, it’s winter time. So let’s get those warm blankets to our students.”
Ripton said the crafts acted as an opportunity for students to help other students by stocking the resource center with their creations. She added the jewelry is helpful as they also offer professional items to students for aid in job interviews.
“We do now accept makeup … because we feel that if it’s needed to access financial security in our country, then it’s a basic need and it should be offered through our pantry,” she said.
Zely Dasilva, who had been knotting a blanket with three other girls, stood by the folding table too.
Dasilva, one of the two interns for the Rams Resource Center, is a sophomore health and wellness major helping at the Fall Philanthropy Fest.
She said it “feels good to be part of something helpful.”
Dasilva said she thought the Philanthropy Fest was a good way to expose students who may need financial help to the Rams Resource Center and the service it provides to the campus.
She added she hopes the event helps students learn not only what the resource center is, but also they are free to both give and take from the resource center.
Up Normal Hill, on the McCarthy Center Patio, William Hubert stood behind a similar-looking folding table in the same chilly weather. In front of him, the same spread of QR codes.
Hubert, a senior environmental studies major and SGA senator, helped raise student awareness about Philanthropy Fest in shifts alongside other SGA members.
Philanthropy Day is a great way to make sure students are getting all the resources they need and are entitled to, he said.
“I hope to see the cart full, the coat rack full,” Hubert said.
Mandy Taylor, a senior elementary education major, is part of a different donation drive focused on the same awareness and community building, the Kappa Delta Pi Thanksgiving Food Drive.
Taylor is the vice president of Kappa Delta Pi, an education honor society, and organized the drive with other chapter members.
She said the organization was pretty light, as the group only promoted the event through posters and email, and prepared drop-off locations around campus for delivery.
Non-perishables collected by the group will be donated to the Head Start program in Framingham following Nov. 17, according to their flier.
Taylor said drives like Kappa Delta Pi’s and the Philanthropy Fest are a timely way of promoting donation to those in need.
“I think promoting collections like this are important for community building, especially close to the holiday season. It's always nice to give back,” she said.
Tara Stepanian, assistant director of development for the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, said her office was interested in hosting the Philanthropy Fest to start “the conversation about what it means to give.
“Obviously when you talk about giving, people think we’re asking for money, when the reality is there are so many other ways to give,” she said.
Stepanian said fundraising often talks about “time, talent, and treasure,” meaning there are more than just financial methods of contributing toward a community goal.
She added it was important to encourage people to think more globally, and about the power their words and actions can have, even as an individual.
Stepanian said FSU already has a “wonderful and very generous” alumni population, and the Philanthropy Fest had the goal of raising awareness about donation to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and administration.
She said this is the first Philanthropy Fest celebrated at the University, and hopes it is a good starting point for community building they can grow on in the future. “I would anticipate that we’ll be here again next year.”
Stepanian said one of the main goals for the event was to make it interactive and accessible, accomplished by the craft tables.
She added building and donating items like the blankets and jewelry also give an avenue for people who want to contribute, but may not have the capacity to financially.
Stepanian also said they have a list of specific items needed for the resource center, too, so people who do have the ability to purchase and donate items know they need goods like individually wrapped toilet paper rolls and shelf-stable nut milks.
“We’re trying to hit all the buttons for people to give them the opportunity to do what they can,” she said.
Stepanian said the great part about the Philanthropy Fest is even if people are unable to give that day, it doesn’t mean they can’t give “tomorrow, or next week, or in the holidays, when people are particularly in need.
“The opportunity always remains - we just want to bring awareness to this resource,” she said.
Stepanian said she loved seeing alumni drive to the curb of the Maynard Parking Lot and drop off donations, as well as the turnout of students and professors.
“I honestly didn’t know what to expect and I’m really happy about it,” she said.
She added one of her office’s goals this year was to raise awareness and have people talking about the power they have as a community. Professors have stopped by and expressed enthusiastic support for the event, she said.
“So, you know, small victories where you can get it. But I’m very excited about the support so far,” she said.