|The finished product, a fully decorated 6' artificial tree|
Students in the Labovitz School of Business and Economics showed both their UMD and holiday spirit when assigned the task of aiding a local non-profit organization. The story began with Associate Professor Jennifer Mencl. Mencl teaches a new special topics class named Developing Managerial Skills.
In this class, she assigned each student to research a local non-profit organization. She then sorted the class into groups and gave them a task: to pick one of the forty non-profit organizations from the information provided by their peers and find a way to help them on a local level.
Mencl believes that helping the community can also help the students. "I want students to enhance what they know about teams and team processes, develop their teamwork skills, gain experience with budgeting, and implement plans and solve problems to achieve team goals. In addition, I want to demonstrate to students that there is more to their lives as business professionals than an organization's bottom line. An important outcome of the course is that students become engaged citizens and actively participate in their communities," she said.
Several groups organized food and clothing drives at local schools, others held fundraising events like taco-in-a-bag sales. One group, composed of Travis Thompson, Derek LeDoux, Bailey Goodburn, and Brett Podein, opted to contribute in a more unconventional way. They decided to decorate a tree for the holidays, specifically for Fitger’s Holiday Forest.
2011 is the third and final year of the Fitger’s Holiday Forest event, in which volunteers purchase and decorate trees, which are then brought down to Fitger’s Brewhouse and sold in a silent auction to benefit the Red Cross. The event hopes to meet its ultimate goal of raising $10,000.
Thompson’s group held a fundraiser at a local Walmart to buy decorations for the tree. This money supplemented funds they received from their professor to buy supplies, and they had enough to purchase what they needed for a tree. The students also contacted several UMD departments and UMD stores, receiving many more decorations that way. The finished product is a shining example of UMD, community, and holiday spirit as one.
The event at Fitger's takes place from Thursday to Sunday during the week after Thanksgiving. Over the course of those evenings, trees will be bid on and viewed by the public.
The group hopes that a contributor from the UMD campus will bid on the tree, and feel that it would be a great way to decorate the campus for the holidays with a touch of UMD. “It all ties into the university’s goal of helping the community, teamwork, UMD reaching out, and helping a good cause. If someone here on campus purchases it, everything comes back full circle,” Thompson said.
Written by Zach Lunderberg and Katarina Menze, November 2011