Drexel Continues Longstanding Charitable Traditions to Brighten the Holiday Season

The University continued three of its traditional and annual ways of giving back to the community during the holiday — including one that has been providing holiday meals for community members for 50 years.
Three people move a tower of boxes.

Drexel Dragons prepare items to be given to community organizations during the Drexel Alumni Turkey Project's distribution day on Dec. 16.

2023 is a milestone year for two of Drexel University’s three annual end-of-year traditions of giving back to the community.

The Alumni Turkey Project, the University’s longest-standing alumni charitable tradition, is celebrating 50 years of collecting and donating holiday meals in Philadelphia.

The Active-Duty Military Care Package Drive is celebrating 15 years of collecting and sending care packages to active military members serving overseas. Drexel’s Center for Military and Veterans Services, along with the Veterans Task Force, have been hosting that event.

And the third tradition, the annual Drexel Toy Drive, hosted by the Office of the President and the Office of Government and Community Relations, is celebrating 27 years in 2023. 

These events bring together Drexel offices and departments and are made possible through faculty, professional staff, students, alumni and friends of the University who participate.

Here’s a roundup of what was collected on campus this month and provided to communities both near campus and around the world:

Drexel alumni surrounded by non-perishable items they packed during a Dec. 9 event.

Drexel Dragons prepared non-perishable items to be packed for distribution during the Drexel Alumni Turkey Project's Dec. 9 packing event with Sharing Excess.

Drexel University Alumni Turkey Project

Starting in 1973, Drexel alumni have provided support to those experiencing hunger and food insecurity during the holidays. The project grew out of a grassroots effort by the Drexel Alumnae Planning Board (a female alumni group established in the 1960s) and has since enabled generations of Dragons to serve the community and promote the University’s civic engagement. During the past five decades, more than 17,000 generous supporters have donated more than $825,000 to the Alumni Turkey Project.

“The Turkey Project is not just a tradition; it's a powerful demonstration of Drexel's commitment to civic engagement,” said Alumni Board of Governors Chair Corina Lam ’10. “The project unites Dragons across generations in a shared mission to combat hunger and uplift those in need. Whether it's through volunteering to distribute meals or contributing with a donation, our Drexel Dragons consistently roll up their sleeves and embody the spirit of collective impact.”

This year, Drexel Alumni collected and distributed 2,800 turkeys and 2,800 non-perishable items to 53 community partners serving the elderly, individuals struggling with food and housing insecurity, victims of domestic violence, individuals in transitional housing and Philadelphians with HIV or AIDS. Ultimately,  $90,177 was raised to make meals possible, thanks to the generosity of nearly 900 members of the Drexel community.

The Alumni Turkey Project continued its partnership with Sharing Excess, a local food redistribution nonprofit also started by a Drexel alumnus, Evan Ehlers ’19, with a Sharing Excess Packing Day on Dec. 9; during that event, volunteers packed bags of non-perishable items to be distributed with the turkeys.

On Dec. 16, those full holiday meals were distributed to community partners, who would then distribute the turkeys and canned goods to their members.

Drexel partners for this year’s event include the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships, the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services, St. Christopher's Center for the Urban Child and Drexel’s student food pantry, Mario’s Market.

50th Drexel Alumni Turkey Project
Learn about the Alumni Turkey Project's long standing legacy of service and how it continues to provide turkeys and sides to community members who are facing hunger or food insecurity during the holidays.
Gif of photos of two men donating items and a table with donated items.
Operation Yellow Ribbon volunteer Tom Cigar, left, and Drexel Police Officer Tom Cirone with items that were collected by Drexel and given to Operation Yellow Ribbon for distribution. Photo credit: Tom Cirone. These toiletries, packaged food and other items were collected and donated through the Active-Duty Military Care Package Drive. Photo credit: Angela Montgomery, PhD, assistant vice president of graduate admissions.


Active-Duty Military Care Package Drive

This year, Dragons donated items from Nov. 10 to Dec. 1, culminating in a packing day in Behrakis Hall. On that day, members of the Center for Military and Veterans Services and Veteran’s Task Force sorted and packed up items including toiletries, books, socks, snacks and treats, as well as homemade cards and notes.

“All in all, about 25–30 boxes and bags filled with care package items were delivered to Operation Yellow Ribbon by members of Drexel University Department of Public Safety,. An additional six packages were sent to any family member or friend of our Drexel community requesting a personalized care package,” said Public Safety’s Police Accreditation Manager Jane Kelly.

These have already been shipped overseas and will be distributed to active-duty troops who are serving abroad and could be missing their loved ones during this time of year. It’s expected that all items will reach 300 units of military personnel in time for the holidays.

“The Veterans Task Force started this tradition in 2009 with a small-scale effort amongst the members. In 2015, we expanded reach by establishing a campus-wide goodwill initiative to bring our active-duty servicemen, servicewomen and canines the comfort and care they truly deserved during the holiday season,” said Rebecca Weidensaul, PhD, Assistant Vice President of Enrollment Management & Student Success. “I am so grateful to all who support this tradition at Drexel and especially for Jane Kelly’s great leadership and passion for this project!”

Gif of photos of the holiday toy drive event
Photos showing Santa Claus, his bags of toys and community organizations picking up their goodies at the Holiday Toy Drive event on Dec. 19.

Drexel University’s 27th Annual Toy Drive

For almost three decades, Drexel’s annual toy drive, hosted by the Office of the President and the Office of Government and Community Relations, has provided new, unwrapped toys to community organizations. The toys are collected on campus and shared with community organizations during a special event in Drexel’s Main Building (attended by none other than Santa Claus!). 

In 2023, approximately 300 bags of toys, games and books were distributed to almost 40 community organizations on Dec. 19. Those organizations included local homeless shelters, youth centers, social service agencies, public housing developments, churches, ministries and more; the groups then distributed the toys, as well as those purchased through gift cards Drexel also gave out, to the children in their communities. A raffle was also held for the chance to win prizes including roller skate kits, headphones, a science kit, an instant camera and more. 

From Nov. 13 to Dec. 18, Drexel faculty, professional staff members, students and other friends of the University could donate their items at collection boxes that were stationed at Drexel campuses. Dragons also helped with the packing, wrapping, transportation and delivery of the gifts. Don Mueller, CEO of St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, which is affiliated with Drexel, also sent boxes of toys to be included in the event, as noted by Drexel President John Fry and Senior Vice President of Government and Community Relations Brian T. Keech, EdD, at the Dec. 19 lunch.

“Throughout these challenges, it is members of our community, like you, that hold together families, provide support to people in need, whatever their plight. On behalf of the Drexel community, thank you for taking care of the members of your community, and especially the children you are serving through events like this one at Drexel,” Keech told the community organization members at the event. He also noted the 27th anniversary of the event and shared his hope that it will continue for the next 27 years as well.

“This is a sacred Drexel University tradition,” Fry said, later adding that the annual event “really embodies the spirit of giving and civic engagement at Drexel.”