Offer Your Helping Hand

The annual Tufts Community Appeal, which funds good works near and far, continues through December 31

When the 2008 recession hit, it struck some families harder than others, and the Community Cupboard Food Pantry in Medford quickly saw an increase in the number of clients it serves. “The number got larger and stayed larger,” says Elizabeth Ammons, co-coordinator of the pantry.

The pantry serves between 70 and 90 clients a week and relies on donations and grants, including one from the annual Tufts Community Appeal. “The grant from Tufts is extremely important to us,” says Ammons, the Harriet H. Fay Professor of Literature in the English department, who is a co-chair of this year’s Community Appeal. “We’re a small operation as nonprofits go. We’re all volunteers, and there is no paid staff, so all our grants and donations go directly to food, and a lot of it goes to children.” Ammons has volunteered at the food pantry for 20 years, and notes that Tufts students also help out.

Each year the Tufts Community Appeal asks faculty and staff to donate money either to a designated charity or to an organization of an individual’s choosing. Donors can choose to give to financial aid for Tufts students, the United Way, Community Health Charities, the Tufts Neighborhood Service Fund, Community Works, Earth Share of New England or Global Impact Charities. They can also donate to charities of their own choice. Donors’ names are entered into a raffle, and prizes include gift cards to local restaurants.

Barbara Rubel, director of the Tufts Office of Community Relations, which oversees the appeal, says the campaign embodies the idea that employees on all three campuses have an opportunity to help others and that the university is one community.

Donations provide help both in nearby communities and in other parts of the world. Global Impact helps fund such groups as Doctors Without Borders, enabling those in many countries to receive much-needed medical care, while the United Way works with health and human service agencies to assist children and families in Massachusetts. The Tufts Neighborhood Service Fund benefits a range of local organizations, including CASPAR, which provides services for those affected by substance abuse, and the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless.

This year, the Tufts Community Appeal has seven co-chairs representing schools on all three campuses. In addition to Ammons they are Mark Gonthier, executive associate dean of the School of Dental Medicine; Patricia Bathgate, administrative services representative in the Office of Public Safety at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine; Stephen H. Levine, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the School of Engineering; Beatrice Rogers, a Friedman School professor; John Leong, a professor of molecular biology and microbiology at the School of Medicine; and Nora Moser McMillan, manager of student academic programs and registrar at the Fletcher School.

Ammons says it’s important to her that the university supports local residents. “I live in Medford, and I think it really reflects well on Tufts to be a good partner in the local community and to recognize that there’s a need,” she says. “We here at Tufts are a pretty privileged bunch. For us to share and to recognize we have responsibilities to our communities, this is the right thing to do.”

Rogers says she has been donating for many years, and when she learned donations were declining, she asked if there was something she could do. She has put up posters in the Friedman School, made pledge forms available and sent out emails to her colleagues. She has also proudly worn a pin given to all donors, a small blue elephant with a big red heart in the middle. “People ask me where I got it; they love it. So I put a little arrow on the posters to the elephant, saying you can get this cool lapel pin if you donate.”

To learn more about how you can help, visit the Tufts Community Appeal website.

Marjorie Howard can be reached at

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