COVID-19 didn’t stop UITS from caring

Food drives, toy drives, and community giving campaigns thrive despite pandemic

It came without ribbons. It came without tags.

It came without packages, boxes, or bags.

A whole season of UITS staffers caring enough

To make the lives of others just a little less rough.*

It can be difficult to rally people to give of their time and resources when no one can hear your rallying cry. Thanks (no thanks) to the challenges of COVID-19, there was no bowl of names in the lobby this year (or last) to physically remind people to donate to the toy drive. Not much in the way of flyers, either, to spread around and encourage people to donate to the United Way campaign. And not very many people in UITS buildings to spread the message, old-fashioned word-of-mouth style, about campus-specific opportunities for the volunteer paid leave day.

But that didn’t matter. Turns out, through our judicious use of digital formats like Slack messages and emails, we still pulled off every one of these things to benefit our communities.

Traffic cop. A volunteer directs activities during setup at the Hoosier Hills Food Bank Book Fair in Bloomington. UITS Bloomington staffers helped with setup and tear-down of the event, which benefited the local food bank. 

Learning the ropes. A volunteer explains what needs to be done during setup at the Hoosier Hills Food Bank Book Fair in Bloomington. UITS Bloomington staffers used their volunteer paid leave day to help with the event.

There will be roast beast

New this year were organized volunteer events in support of feeding hungry Hoosiers, to make good use of the volunteer paid leave day. Some campuses held a day of service this fall, while others are preparing for spring events, through a partnership between UITS Cares and local United Way agencies to guide them to food relief agencies near IU campuses.

IU South Bend UITS staffers volunteered at the Northern Indiana Food Bank. A small but mighty crew of three, Phil Mikulak, Dorlita Blakely, and Kathleen Weidner worked in the main distribution area and prepared the outgoing orders.

“The drive-through line was very long, and it was steady throughout the day,” said Weidner, manager of communications at IU South Bend. “We were amazed at the amount of food that was donated, but also saddened at the number of families that needed food. We were all sore at the end of the day, but grateful that we could help our community.”

If you would like to participate in the service day in 2022, email  (note there is no "s" on the email address due to character limits) to find out who your UITS Cares campus representative is. 

Heavy lifting. Volunteers sort and arrange boxes of books during setup at the Hoosier Hills Food Bank Book Fair in Bloomington. The annual event brings in much-needed funding to feed community members in need.

Jingtinglers, tartookas, tringlers, and fuzzles!

The UITS toy drive in support of Head Start families is an annual event, and no child has ever had to go without a holiday gift because there weren’t enough donations. This year, as with last, COVID-19 was dealt a blow to its ego when generous UITS staffers provided more than 200 children with toys. Special thanks to Heather Hubbard and her elves for organizing this event. Her sleigh was overstuffed with gifts, and she had to call in backup sleighs just to get all the donations to the Head Start kids.

Maybe kindness means just a little bit more

Each campus conducts a United Way giving campaign every year, each with its own monetary goal in support of various United Way agencies. As of this writing, the Bloomington UITS group had pledged more than $23,000.

“We have almost 40 individual donors, many of them recurring donors,” said Renee Petrina, Bloomington UITS United Way campaign team leader. “We also have some new donors this year, which is awesome because it means people see the value of United Way agencies in our community.”

You can donate via payroll deduction and give to some of your favorite organizations, Petrina said. In Bloomington, more than 24 different groups are partner agencies, and you can direct your gifts to them.

*With credit (and apologies) to Dr. Seuss for borrowing a couple of the Grinch’s famous lines.