‘Tis the season when the spirit of Christmas is on full display at Missouri Southern. 

A variety of campus groups have been as busy acting as Santa’s elves to ensure a happy holiday season for those in need.

Earlier this month, Connor Ballroom was turned into a giant gift-wrapping location as nearly 100 presents were readied for delivery. The annual Angel Tree program is sponsored by the university’s Community Service Committee and the Staff Senate.

“We have applications for our Pell-eligible students to fill out,” said Bethany Newsom, who heads up the committee. “If they meet the income eligibility, then we’re able to put all their children ages 18 and under on the list.

“This year, we had 92 children on the tree and all of them were adopted.”

Children’s wish lists – including toys and clothing – were displayed on a tree in Hearnes Hall. For those who wanted to help but weren’t quick enough to adopt an Angel, school supplies, clothing and monetary donations were also accepted.

Volunteers from around campus came to help wrap the presents, which were distributed during the annual Southern Lights event on Dec. 6.

Marquis Sumrall, a physical education major, was one of the students on hand to donate their time.

“I’m in the Project Stay program and got a text message asking if any of us could volunteer,” he said, as he wrapped a pair of gloves, hat and jeans that were requested for a 10-year-old girl. “I had an hour free, so I thought I’d come and help out.

“I like volunteering and helping out at my church … plus, it’s Christmastime.”

Across campus, members of the Golden Crest Circle of Omicron Delta Kappa gathered in Taylor Hall’s Honors Lounge to sort coats donated for the 10th annual One Warm Coat Drive.

“We had donation boxes in every building on campus, including the Lion Cub Academy,” said Kaitlin Fraser, a senior biology major and president of the National Leadership Honor Society chapter. “We also collected donations at two Southwest Missouri Bank locations and at Victory Ministry & Sports Complex.”

Nearly two dozen students were on hand to sort and count the donations and separate them by size and gender.

“Men’s and women’s coats are being donated to Watered Gardens, and children’s coats will go to the Joplin Boys and Girls Club,” said Fraser.

A total of 336 coats were donated this year, as well as miscellaneous items such as hats and scarves.

“We’re serving a need in the community,” said Dr. Michael Garoutte, a faculty sponsor for the ODK chapter, as the students completed their count. “You should all feel good about that.”

Keeping the community warm was also at the heart of the League of Lions Social Work Club’s annual Chase the Chill collection.

Students collected hats, mittens, scarves and other clothing items as part of the community effort.

“The donated items are taken around town and hung on lamp posts, trees or other places,” said Dr. Renee White, faculty sponsor for League of Lions. “People who find them are allowed to take what they need.”

Social Work students also collected gift bags to deliver to elderly patients in Freeman Health System’s Stevens Unit, and offered coffee, hot chocolate and snacks for families in need as they shopped for donated items during an event at Jefferson Elementary School.

Cold weather also means cold feet, which members of the Kinesiology Club helped to ward off with a shoe drive.

Students collected more than 100 pairs of shoes and socks during the drive. They donated the items to Bright Futures of Joplin and Watered Gardens.

Man’s best friend and other pets also received a helping hand during the holidays thanks to efforts by students in the criminal justice program.

As part of an annual project, students collected food and pet supplies for the Joplin Humane Society, said JJ Spurlin, associate professor of criminal justice.

“This was the 10th year for the project,” he said. “Students collect items in various ways, but the rules are they cannot use their own money. They have to be savvy in how they do it.”

That can mean anything from soliciting churches or lobbying businesses such as pet stores to lend a hand. Each year, he said his students have been able to collect at least $1,000 in donations.