As the year draws to a close, especially during this time of Thanksgiving and Christmas, we give thanks for our health, our families and the many blessings in our lives.
It's this time of year that our thoughts and prayers remain with our neighbors who were affected " and continue to be affected "Â by the August flood.
We know that this is an especially difficult time of year for these families. Suddenly, many faced their first Thanksgivings without homes in which to gather. Suddenly, finding spare money for Christmas shopping is a little more difficult, yet the "wish lists" have grown tremendously.
We know that it will take a long time before these families can truly feel as though their lives are "back to normal."
Yet, we also celebrate the goodness that has arisen from the hearts of our community members following the flood. I'm deeply touched and proud to say the faculty, staff and students here at Saint Mary's have been a part of the fundraising and cleanup efforts.
"¢ Through our public Rockin' for Relief event " a live concert to benefit flood survivors in our surrounding communities " we raised $2,889. With a matching $2,500 donation from Modern Woodmen of America, the proceeds totaled $5,389.
"¢ We were honored to serve as the Red Cross shelter for the week following the flooding, and Chartwells Campus Dining graciously provided more than 1,000 meals to the evacuees during their stay on campus.
"¢ Nearly 400 SMU students have volunteered more than 1,700 hours of flood relief efforts within our neighboring communities. And this number does not include the many faculty and staff who have put in unrecorded hours. Groups of volunteers have returned to campus, covered in mud and tired. But they've also gained a tremendous admiration for the spirit of cooperation that flows through this area.
"¢ And through small fundraisers on campus, as well as a public Recipe for Relief, we've raised more than $20,000 to help our own faculty and staff " more than 25 families " whose lives and homes were destroyed or severely damaged. These efforts continue, as we know there is more to be done.
Rather than simply present you our "what we have done" list, let me assure you that this is only the beginning of our efforts. My promise is that we won't forget you - this winter, this spring, and for as long as you need us.
And I know we are not alone in that pledge.
"¢ Consider the abundance of donations " as well as the abundance of those in need " that poured into Central United Methodist Church for the Christmas ornament giveaway. More ornaments are needed before their next giveaway day Saturday. What a great way to share some holiday spirit.
"¢ Consider the flood survivors " and many other families " who have applied for help through Saint Mary's University Gifts for Winona. By taking a tag from one of the many giving trees throughout Winona, you will be bringing tremendous joy to someone this holiday season.
"¢ Every day I hear of more efforts: the Flood Relief Walk around Lake Winona, the Flood of Love program in Rushford and the many other longstanding volunteer efforts like the 10 Days of Giving and the Goodfellows fund. Winona Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army and so many others are working every day to help area families in need.
These organizations are making it easy " for all of us " to make a difference during this traditional season of giving.
Let us give thanks to be part of a community that is so giving, so concerned for our neighbors' health and well-being.
Brother Louis DeThomasis, FSC, Ph.D. is Chancellor of Saint Mary's University of Minnesota