Communication students collect huge holiday haul for needy teens

Nicole Sather is among the NIU students who made the gift drive a success.
Nicole Sather is among the NIU students who made the gift drive a success.

Generous hearts often want to make the holidays magical for needy children, but for the third consecutive year, NIU students are brightening the season for a group that often goes forgotten: adolescents in foster care.

As part of an engaged-learning project in two group-communication classes taught by Department of Communication professor David Henningsen, the NIU students collected nearly 2,000 gifts.

The number is easily a record total for Henningsen’s classes over the years. Students tallied 400 gifts the first time around and 800 gifts last year.

Henningsen created the assignment as a way for his students to study their own group communication.

He donned a Santa stocking cap Thursday while students helped him stuff about 1,000 presents into his minivan. He then transported the load to the Belvidere offices of Lutheran Child and Family Services (LCFS) of Illinois to distribute to young people ages 12 to 17.

It was the professor’s second load – earlier this semester he dropped off 900 books.

“The credit for this year’s whopping total goes solely to the students,” Henningsen says.

David Henningsen
David Henningsen

“Working in small teams, they came up with their own business plans on how to help LCFS. One group alone collected more than 700 gifts simply by standing outside of stores and asking shoppers to donate.”

LCFS is a non-profit organization that works with children statewide in the foster system.

“Professor Henningsen and his students have been so helpful collecting gifts for older children in our system, which has been more of a challenge for us,” says Leslie Lopez of LCFS.

“It’s been such a neat partnership we developed over the last couple years,” she says. “Quite a few NIU students emailed and called us this year to get more information for their projects about our agency and how the drive works.”

LCFS continues to collect donations to provide gifts for the more than 1,500 children in its foster care, community service and youth residential treatment programs. Interested individuals can contact Lopez at leslie_lopez@lcfs.org or (708) 488-5568.

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