On their first date last winter, University seniors Surbhi Madia and John Barber strolled down the frosted streets of downtown Minneapolis, wondering why they still felt cold despite layers of winter clothing.
“We began to talk about how we were lucky enough to have these things, as so many people don’t have warm clothing items,” said Madia, a psychology and education student.
Less than a year later, Madia and Barber – a nutrition science student – put their concern about the cold into action by starting “Winter Warmth from U” – a University-wide clothing drive aimed at helping those in need.
The event is gaining attention from everyone from first-year students in residence halls to Susan Hagstrum, University President Bob Bruininks’ wife.
All residence halls began collecting winter clothing today and will continue collecting until Dec. 3.
At that time, Madia and Barber will try to maximize donations with a “Fill the Bus” event, loading a bus outside Coffman Union from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. with all clothing donations.
KDWB will broadcast the event live at Coffman from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the first 100 people to donate 10 or more items will be awarded gift certificates, Barber said. Hagstrum will speak at 1 p.m.
Although warm clothing is preferred, Barber said all clothing will be accepted.
“Our hope is that faculty, staff and students will go home for Thanksgiving and clear their closets of any clothes they no longer use,” Madia said.
Madia and Barber said this is the first time either has created such an extensive event.
“The programs I’m used to doing as a CA are organizing ice cream socials and talking about study philosophies with my residents,” Barber said.
To plan the event, Barber and Madia said, they made lists of whom to contact and how to get students, faculty and organizations involved.
Madia said networking to find contacts was the key to their success. Bob Burgett, from the University of Minnesota Foundation, and Laurie McLaughlin, director of Housing and Residential Life, gave them several contacts, Madia said.
Madia and Barber also formed a “Winter Warmth from U” committee of 10 people to help with the event.
“I don’t think we realized how much of a time commitment ‘Winter Warmth from U’ would be,” Madia said. “It seems to be our full-time job.”
Barber said he made many sacrifices to organize the event, which he said occupied about as much of his time as being a student.
Despite the craziness of their schedules, both Madia and Barber said they are now closer after planning the event.
“I must say that it is a different experience having your boyfriend be more of a business partner,” she said. “We sit down with our agenda – just the two of us – and go over what needs to be done. You would think we are the weirdest couple ever.”
Several student organizations have also started collecting clothes and plan to meet Dec. 3 to walk to Coffman as a group, Madia said.
She said organizing a clothing drive is a perfect event for student groups because they can not only get together and win prizes and gift certificates, but they can also change lives.
“If we can help just one family not worry about keeping warm this winter and enjoy life and share it with those around them Ö we will sleep at night with the peace of mind knowing we made a difference,” Madia said.
Madia and Barber will donate the collected clothing to Pillsbury United Communities, a Twin Cities nonprofit organization, which will distribute the donations throughout the area to children and families in need.