Helping Hands

The Tufts Community Appeal, which runs through the end of December, is a way for faculty and staff to contribute to many worthy causes

Andrea Shapiro by a Second Chances clothing donation bin in Arlington

When Andrea Shapiro was working as a management consultant for nonprofits that accepted donated clothing, she noticed that it was challenging for staff to sort and store the clothing so they could distribute it to their clients. She knew there had to be a way to more efficiently match what was donated with people in need.

After talking with many local service and shelter providers, she founded Second Chances. Since 2003, the Somerville nonprofit has streamlined the process of getting donated clothing to homeless and very low-income people in Somerville and Cambridge through partnerships with local human service agencies.

This year, Second Chances is on track to recycle and reuse more than 200,000 pounds of clothing, shoes, accessories, and textiles, in addition to providing what Shapiro calls “esteem-building outfits” and gift cards to more than 200 people annually. 

Second Chances is one of more than thirty-five local nonprofits to get a helping hand from the Tufts Neighborhood Service Fund. Second Chances used last year’s award to help replace aging donation bins with new ones.

“It’s important to have a public presence that speaks to our dedication to helping people look and feel their best,” said Shapiro. “Sometimes we help people with the clothes they and their children need for everyday use. But we also make sure people have a suit for a job interview or something special for a family celebration. Those donations are not only kind and thoughtful—they can have a huge impact on individual lives. We’re very grateful to Tufts for helping us with this important work.”

The Tufts Neighborhood Service Fund is one option for gifts made through the annual Tufts Community Appeal, which is running through December 31. The fund directly supports nonprofits in the university’s host communities of Somerville, Medford, Boston, and Grafton. Participation is steadily growing across the university, with a record 768 faculty and staff contributors raising a record-breaking $700,000 last year. This year the volunteer board for the Tufts Community Appeal is setting its sights on another participation record of at least 800 donors. 

For David Gute, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and returning member of the Tufts Community Appeal board, his participation “has always been because of the many ways that donations have impact, ranging from the support of nonprofit organizations located in Tufts’ host communities to increasing financial aid,” he said.

He is also hoping that a new incentive will elevate participation. Recently he and Todd Quinto, Robinson Professor of Mathematics and another returning board member, described a “friendly competition” between the School of Engineering and the School of Arts and Sciences.

The wager involves the proverbial “ugly” Christmas sweater. The dean of the school with the lower participation percentage will be required to wear the sweater the entire work day of Wednesday, February 6, including to the Arts, Sciences and Engineering faculty meeting, explained Gute.

Just how ugly is ugly?  At the School of Engineering, Dean Jianmin Qu, has decided that the department within the school with the highest participation rate will choose the ugly sweater choice for James Glaser, dean of Arts and Sciences.

The Arts and Sciences contribution to the ugly sweater competitionThe Arts and Sciences contribution to the ugly sweater competition
Glaser, for his part, said Quinto, has already set the bar high. His choice is a 3D sweater with a white-antlered reindeer emerging from the center of a decorated wreath nestled on a red-brick chimney.

“I think it’s a fittingly bold and innovative choice for the School of Arts and Sciences and yet another good reason for A&S faculty to give to the TCA,” said Quinto.

Gute, however, is doing his part to spread the appeal participation message across the School of Engineering. “My donation is one more step toward hopefully ensuring that Dean Qu will exercise complete control of his wardrobe,” he said.

This year, staff and faculty can support the Tufts Community Appeal in three ways:

Any Area at Tufts: Help deserving students attend Tufts based on their academic ability and not their ability to pay by supporting financial aid or give to any area of Tufts that is meaningful to you. To give: print the pledge form [PDF], which also includes a payroll deduction option, or make an online gift.

The Tufts Neighborhood Service Fund: Support host communities and the important work that is done by Tufts volunteers with community organizations in Medford, Somerville, Grafton, and the Boston neighborhoods of Chinatown, the Fenway, and Mission Hill. To give: print the pledge form [PDF], which also includes a payroll deduction option, or make an online gift here.

The Charity of Your Choice: Donate to any nonprofit charitable 501(c)(3) organization. To give: print the pledge form [PDF], and include your check. Your donation will be mailed directly by Tufts Government and Community Relations.    

Making a gift qualifies people for the Tufts Community Appeal raffle, with monthly drawings for gift cards to the Tufts bookstore.

For more information, go to the Tufts Community Appeal website or email

Laura Ferguson can be reached at

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