For her public speaking class this semester, HCC student Donna Lloyd gave a speech on Homework House, one of the designated beneficiaries of this year's Giving Tree campaign. Homework House supplies tutors to children of low-income and at-risk families in Holyoke. She collected $50 from her classmates and put in another $20 of her own.
"We donated two big bags of stuff," said Lloyd, who lives in Springfield, "and I got an A on my presentation."
Those gifts were among more than 300 donated by HCC students, staff and faculty this year through the annual Giving Tree campaign that benefited Homework House, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and West Mass Eldercare.
"This is one of the real nice, feel-good events of the year," said HCC President Bill Messner during a holiday gathering where the gifts were distributed to representatives from the three agencies.
"Once again, your generosity overwhelms us," said Priscilla Chalmers, executive director of West Mass Eldercare. "We do serve a lot of people. Some have caring families; some do not."
Chalmers told stories about several of her agency's clients, such as Richard, a man in his mid-70s who received a gift of a blanket last year from someone at HCC. "His reaction was tears of joy," she said, "because it was one thing his abusive, alcoholic son wouldn't give to him."
Sister Jane Morrissey, from Homework House, told a story of two little brothers who were in tears fighting over a note to their parents, asking them to come pick up their holiday gifts. "If a note that they can't even read means that much," she said, "how much more will the wrappings and the colors of those gifts mean to them come Christmas."
Lloyd said she remembers as a child her family receiving gifts donated from a local church, because her family couldn't afford to buy them. "We struggled," she said, "'so even in these tough economic times, it's nice to be able to give back. To see a child smile on Christmas is the greatest gift."
Photos: (Left) HCC students, staff and faculty donated more than 300 gifts this year to three local agencies. (Right) Giving Tree committee member Karen Desjeans stands with HCC student Donna Lloyd.