Organizations adopt family for good cause

Cassie Buchman, Administration Editor

JoJunia Johnson, a lead merchandiser at a Coca-Cola enterprise, recently went through hard times when her family’s house burned down.

“We’ve been through a lot,” Johnson said. “We lost everything besides our lives.”

After learning about what happened, the community came together to help her out.

People donated clothing, furniture and different children’s items.

“They really came together,” Johnson said.

Eastern students from TRiO Student Support Services and the National Pan-Hellenic Council, student government, Sigma Gamma Rho sorority, Zeta Phi Beta sorority and Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity also came together to help Johnson and other families by “adopting” them and donating money to get them presents for the holiday season.

At Ninth Street Hall, they gave Johnson and her children presents in a room decorated with little golden Christmas trees, as Christmas music played in the background.

One of the items Johnson received was a microwave, which she said would help her out a lot.

Johnson said because she was always doing things for everyone else, it felt weird, albeit in a good way, to be helped by others.

“Especially in such a small town,” Johnson said. “I didn’t expect it at all.”

Johnson, who has five children, also has custody of her two nephews; she is also a student going to school online studying business.

Maggie Burkhead, the associate director of minority affairs, said the TRiO ambassadors have been participating in the Adopt-a-Family event for the last four years as a part of other community service events they do.

“We can’t use federal money so we use our dues,” Burkhead said. “I want them to see how it feels to bless someone else for Christmas.”

To choose which families are “adopted,” they ask students if they know people who could use the help and contact Housing Outreach Prevention and Education and Williams Elementary.

They then ask the family what they need.

“Everybody was reasonable in their requests,” Burkhead said. “They asked for a football, a pair of shoes, some things for their bathroom, any color.”

Laia Hill, a senior psychology major, said if she was in need, she would appreciate getting help.

“It feels good to see how the kids reacted, they were being so appreciative,” she said.

Maliya Smith, a senior psychology major, said though this is their first time participating in Adopt-a-Family, they definitely want to do it again next year.

Both Hill and Smith are members of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority.

Chris Johnson, a senior marketing major, said it was good to see the community had the family’s back when they needed it.

“Especially the way the community is now, with all its issues, the fact that they still came together for such an event is great,” Johnson said.

Johnson is a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

Both groups took the money out of their dues and from fundraising to help raise money for the event.

Cherise Lesley, a junior sociology major and TRiO ambassador, said the event was heartwarming and one of the biggest Adopt-a-Family events they had ever had.

“The way everyone came together, it was honestly great,” Lesley said. “Hopefully next year, it will be even bigger than this and we can go to the Grand Ballroom or something like that.”

Stephen Simpson, vice president of academic affairs for Student Senate, said since he is in student government, he decided to ask if they could partner up for the event.

“We donated $300 and it all came out of personal pockets,” Simpson said. “It was nice to see everyone, especially the mom.”

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]