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The holidays are a magical time for many, but families struggling to make ends meet need a little help to ensure the magic reaches their homes. South University's online programs (SUO) and South Cares coordinated for the ninth year in a row a robust toy drive to support Pittsburgh community families in need this holiday season.

South University's online programs' 9th Annual Giving Tree Toy Drive is organized by the volunteer organization called South Cares, an employee-driven community outreach team made up of 250 dedicated staff members committed to supporting struggling Pittsburgh families and ensuring they have gifts for their children for the holiday.

Impressively fulfilling the wishlists of over 140 kids, the South Cares team purchased all of the toys for the toy drive. This is a tradition the team of volunteers has dedicated their time and own funds to every year, for nine consecutive years now.

"Even during the Covid pandemic, South Cares didn't miss their opportunity to provide presents for the Pittsburgh community," said Matt Gavlik, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Success and Online Administration at South University's online programs. "We couldn't do this without the dedication and support of our caring staff. Thank you to everyone at South Cares who made another magical holiday season possible for Pittsburgh families."

This year, South Cares has again partnered with Kitchen of Grace – the Pittsburgh nonprofit, community hub, and resource center that provides needed work programs to kids in and around the Marshall-Shadeland neighborhood. To see how the local community responded to the gifts, check out this article by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"Our committee of volunteer staff has spent the last nine years putting together various initiatives that give back to our community in a really meaningful way," said William Faust, Dean of Student Affairs (SUO) and South Cares Committee Member. "Throughout the year we partner with impactful charities and our volunteers organize service-driven events like community food banks, toy drives, and clothing drives. It's an amazing way to give back while spending quality time with coworkers."

In addition to the toy drive, every year the SUO leadership team purchases a large item to donate to the Kitchen of Grace facility. This year, SUO is helping Kitchen of Grace upgrade its computer/software systems.

"Our annual toy drive is one of my favorite impact programs here at South Cares," said Valerie Arenth, Admissions Representative (SUO) and South Cares Chair. "We reach approximately 140 kids every year and we have been sponsoring many of them since they were born. It's incredible to see these kids grow with each new year and watch their needs and interests change. The kids of Pittsburgh have become a part of our SUO family. If we can make their and their family's holidays a special memory, we did our part."

If you want to see pictures from the event, be sure to catch the highlight reel on South University’s Instagram page.

For more information on South University's online programs and South Cares, please contact Valerie Arenth at 412-537-4147 or

About South University's online programs

South University's online programs aim to provide educational opportunities for the academic, personal, and professional growth of adult learners.

Programs, credential levels, technology, and scheduling options vary by school and are subject to change. Credentials and experience levels vary by faculty and instructors. Not all programs are available to residents of all U.S. states. Administrative office: South University, 709 Mall Boulevard, Savannah, GA 31406-4805 © 2023 South University. All rights reserved.