Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Donations Sought for 23rd Annual Books and Bears Program

The UM Books and Bears program will conduct a ‘drive-by’ celebration Dec. 17 for Facilities Management employees to receive gift cards at the Jackson Avenue Center. Photo by Megan Wolfe/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

For 22 years, University of Mississippi students, faculty and staff have purchased and donated toys and books for the children of its Facilities Management Department employees through the annual Books and Bears program. 

This year, because of COVID-19 restrictions, both the gifts and their manner of distribution will be different.

In lieu of actual books and bears, the Ole Miss community is being asked to donate funds to purchase gift cards. Donations are being accepted through Dec. 11. 

Rather than the traditional gathering with music, food and the drawing of names, employees will be given the cards Dec. 17 via a “drive-by celebration.” The event is set for 11:45 a.m. at the Jackson Avenue Center.

“Facilities Management workers have indeed been our ‘essential workers’ this year,” said Jackie Certion, assistant director of the Foundations for Academic Success Track Program and Books and Bears Committee chairperson. “This is a token of our appreciation to them for all they do to keep our workspaces safe.”

Books and Bears serves between 300 and 350 service workers annually. Amidst COVID-19 policies restricting social gatherings and other hardships, Facilities Management employees have continued working to ensure everyone’s safety during this challenging time.

“We greatly appreciate their commitment and efforts to serving the university,” Certion said.

The goal is $6,000. Checks, made payable to UM Books and Bears, should be taken to any location of the Mississippi Federal Credit Union and deposited in account No. 1001032546. Donations also can be made via PayPal, with the funds sent to umbooksbears@gmail.com.

“I am anticipating another successful event this year,” Certion said. “On behalf of the Books and Bears Committee, I thank you for your generosity.”

Donald Cole, former assistant provost and assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs emeritus, and Janice Murray, associate dean of liberal arts and professor of art emeritus, organized the first Books and Bears in 1997 to help custodial staff provide Christmas gifts to their children. Spread by word-of-mouth only, the initial response to the call for donations was overwhelming.

For information about Books and Bears, contact Certion at jcertion@olemiss.edu or 662-915-1568.

By Edwin B. Smith