As the good will of Duke community members hits a holiday high, Rev. Bruce Puckett is capitalizing.
Puckett, director of community ministry at the Duke Chapel, is among faculty and staff taking part in Duke's annual "Project Share," a program that works to create holiday memories for those in need throughout the Durham community. Every year, Duke Chapel employees and worshippers "adopt" Durham families and collect a variety of gifts to donate to them.
"There's something really special about seeing people's faces when they receive gifts," Puckett said. "It's a time of year when everyone should have the chance to be joyful and having a giving heart can benefit us as much as the people who receive our gifts."
Project Share is an annual effort coordinated through the Duke Community Service Center in partnership with the Volunteer Center of Durham and Durham's Department of Social Services. It's part of the larger "Share Your Christmas" program run by the Durham offices. This will be the 37th year Duke has held Project Share, which concludes today.
"Our story is no different than any other non-profit - we have increased need and diminished resources, which make it difficult to be able to do all you want to do," said Kim Shaw, executive director of the Volunteer Center of Durham. "Having a strong community partner like Duke is important because we know we can count on Duke every year."
During each holiday season, Duke pledges to provide gifts for at least 300 adults and children across Durham through donations from Duke departments, offices and student groups. On average, it costs about $50 to sponsor one person.
For Puckett, that means lots of shopping. Duke Chapel staff and worshippers received a "wish list" in the fall from the Community Service Center describing about 70 Durham residents the Chapel will sponsor. Puckett and other staff purchase gifts like clothing or blankets.
"We collect items and store them in our office until we run out of space," he said. "After a few weeks, we organize and deliver the gifts that have been donated."
For the past five years, Pegeen Ryan-Murray helped organize a Project Share effort for the Office of Undergraduate Scholars and Fellows. She'd set out a donation box and have a contest to see which scholarship group had the most number of students make a donation. After money was collected, students from the scholarship groups would go shopping and then hold a wrapping party for all of the students to participate.
"A lot of students may feel connected to Duke, but we wanted them to feel connected to the community as well," said Ryan-Murray, now a program coordinator for the Pratt School of Engineering's Engineering World Health Summer Institute. "It made us all feel good doing something positive that made a difference in people's lives. If everyone did this, it'd be a different kind of world."