During this time of year, the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center recognized the need for some festive cheer around the office, especially after the pain many have felt this semester.

By serving its local community as well as creating moments of quality bonding time among Women’s Center staff and its student interns, the Center has chosen to celebrate the season with the following traditions:

Sharing is caring!

The Women’s Center kicked off the holiday season during the first week of December with the annual tradition of participating in the Holiday Sharing program through the Madison House, an independent non-profit organization consisting of more than 3,000 U.Va. student volunteers.

According to the Madison House website, the Holiday Sharing Program “believes that every single person should have a ‘Happy Holiday!’ Our mission is to brighten the holiday season for needy families in the Charlottesville area.” The program partners with the Salvation Army, who provides a list of families to receive gift packages. One package includes enough food for three full meals for the family, as well as gifts totaling approximately $30 or more for each family member.

This year, the Women’s Center sponsored a family of four that included two children, a 5-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl. Women’s Center Development Assistant Carol Gilbert spearheaded the effort with creating a sign-up list, collecting and delivering the items.

Photographer Fareine Suarez takes a pro-bono photo of Communications Assistant and Iris Editor Agnes Filipowski

Photographer Fareine Suarez takes a pro-bono photo of Communications Assistant and Iris Editor Agnes Filipowski

For the food portion of the family’s package, Women’s Center staff and interns accumulated more than 70 items, such as canned goods, snacks like granola bars and fresh fruit, filling classics like pasta and rice, and pantry staples like canola oil and flour. For the gifts, clothing, cars, a doll and bicycles were the highlights for the children, along with gift cards for the adults.

Gift giving…and stealing

The annual holiday office party, organized by Sarah Steele, the Executive Assistant to the Women’s Center Director, brought together Women’s Center staff and interns along with staff from Curry who are a part of the co-sponsored Young Women Leaders Program.

Prior to lunch, the Women’s Center Communications and Development team obtained pro bono services from professional photographer Fareine Suarez, who took head shots for Women’s Center student interns and some staff. Interns appreciated this gift in anticipation of the end of fall semester, a time in which many students begin to job search or look for internships for the following year.

“I am so grateful for this professional head shot because now I will create a LinkedIn account!” Counseling intern Hannah Trible said. “In this era of digital presence, having a professional photo and profile feels important. Thank you, Women’s Center!”

Departing staffer Melissa Levy, seated, is regaled with "Melissa is Coming to Curry"

Departing staffer Melissa Levy, seated, is regaled with “Melissa is Coming to Curry”

During lunch, there was a special dessert spread with items bought or homemade by Women’s Center staff. Oreo truffles, pretzel turtles and frosted brownies were just some of the options. While eating, the Women’s Center staff surprised YWLP Associate Director Melissa Levy with a “farewell song” as her office moved from the Center to Curry in the fall. The song lyrics parodied the holiday jingle “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” with the chorus switching to “Melissa is Coming to Curry.”

The culminating activity of the party was the annual Women’s Center tradition of a White Elephant game. Students and staff were actively involved as there were more than 20 participants with a wide range of small but holiday-themed gifts such as sweet treats, coffee mugs and ornaments.

Undaunted by the prospect of retribution, Legal Clinic intern Susie Scott steals a gift from Director Sharon Davie

Undaunted by the prospect of retribution, Legal Clinic intern Susie Scott steals a gift from Director Sharon Davie

“This year we not only had a new group of interns that have never been to the Women’s Center holiday party and who turned out in large number for the party, but also several new staff,” Steele said. “Everyone, newcomers and long-time staff alike, really got into participating in the gift exchange game and socializing in general. It felt like new life was breathed into the Women’s Center.”

Check out the holiday music playlist for the party here to help get you in the mood for the season! Steele compiled this Spotify list of holiday hits based on suggestions from Women’s Center staff and interns.

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The Women’s Center would like to thank its interns for all of their hard work this semester, as well as wishes everyone a restful Winter Break and a happy holiday season.

Story by Agnes Filipowski

Photos by Chuck Moran and Agnes Filipowski