GWU Staffers Help Salvation Army Spread Christmas Cheer

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A team of Gardner-Webb staffers from the University’s Marketing and Communications offices were hard at work on Dec. 15 and 16—if you can call helping the Salvation Army to deliver Christmas toys and goodies to local families “work.”

But that’s precisely what Gardner-Webb President Dr. Frank Bonner calls it, the most important kind of work—so important that he instituted a policy encouraging GWU staff departments to take up to two days “off with pay” each year to serve together in the community.

“That policy is just one of the many ways this institution gives life and breath to its commitment to community engagement,” said Matt Walters, assistant director for executive communications at GWU. “As staffers, it’s one thing to say we believe in service, and to celebrate when our students make a difference in the community. But it’s a better thing that we’re given real incentive to put into practice the principles we support. I’m not sure if many organizations and institutions are doing this, but I’m glad to work at a place that does.”

Noel T. Manning, GWU’s director for university relations and chief communications officer, said the opportunity to help the Salvation Army was just too good to pass up.

“I received an email recently stating the need the Salvation Army had in distributing toys and food to families in need this season, and I decided to recruit some elves to take on the job,” said Manning. “The response was amazing, and I’m excited to have had the chance to work with my colleagues in a different kind of setting this month.”

“I wasn’t surprised by the giving nature of this staff, because I see it in a multitude of ways,” Manning added.

Gardner-Webb has enjoyed a long relationship with the Salvation Army. In fact, earlier this month the University launched an annual family Christmas program called “‘Twas the Night,” collecting boxes of toys for the Salvation Army’s Christmas toy closet. The Marketing and Communications team then spent a collective 128 hours distributing those toys to children whose families could not otherwise afford gifts and food on Christmas.

“Serving at the distribution center really put Christmas in a whole new perspective,” Walters said. “It was beautiful to see how dearly those parents love their kids. I don’t think most people realize the impact of their gift when they drop money in a Red Kettle or donate a toy to the Salvation Army. Those gifts enable these parents to express the passionate love they have for their children through real gifts that, otherwise, they may not be able to afford.”

“To see the joy on those parents faces is truly life-changing,” Walters added. “It reminded me of Jesus’s words about how much the Father delights in giving good gifts to His children.”

“Since 1865,” Manning said, “the Salvation Army has served God by literally serving man’s spiritual and physical needs. So, it is only fitting that Gardner-Webb, with a motto that speaks of service to God and humanity, should partner with this cause.”

To get involved with the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign or Christmas Cheer Work, please call (704) 482-0375.

To suggest a local service project for Gardner-Webb students, faculty and/or staff, contact Community Engagement Coordinator Stephanie Richey at (704) 406-2135 or

Located in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb University seeks a higher ground in higher education – one that embraces faith and intellectual freedom, balances conviction with compassion, and inspires in students a love of learning, service, and leadership.