October 9, 2009

Vanderbilt kicks off 2009 Community Giving campaign

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Tiffany Davis, right, talks with Joe Fisher at the recent kickoff of Vanderbilt’s Community Giving Campaign. Davis was among several who have been helped by the campaign to speak at the event. (Mary Donaldson)

Vanderbilt kicks off 2009 Community Giving campaign

Gwen Cockrell put it simply, but powerfully, to the nearly 400 Vanderbilt departmental coordinators gathered recently to kick off the 2009 Community Giving campaign.

“Sometimes it's just peaches and cream, and then life just shows up,” she said. A single mother of four children, Cockrell said she lived on the streets for 10 years, but turned her life around after being helped by Magdalene House, a two-year residential community for women with a history of prostitution and drug addiction. Founded by Vanderbilt's The Rev. Becca Stevens, the organization is funded in part by the United Way of Metropolitan Nashville.

The kickoff was emceed by Joe Fisher, voice of the Vanderbilt Commodores, and featured stories about how each of the four federations help not only the community, but Vanderbilt employees and programs as well.

Vanderbilt's Community Giving Campaign has raised $1 million over each of the past three years with the proceeds going to each of the four designated federations — United Way of Metropolitan Nashville, Community Health Charities, Community Shares and Nashville Alliance for Public Education.

Cockrell and Stevens, representing the Magdalene House and the United Way, were joined at the kick off by representatives from the Lupus Foundation (under the Community Health Charities umbrella); Vanderbilt's Center for Health Services (supported by Community Shares of Tennessee); and Harris-Hillman School, a Pencil Partner with Vanderbilt for more than 23 years, supported by the Nashville Alliance for Public Education.

“Magdalene House provided me with extensive help,” Cockrell said. “The program was truly a blessing. It's my foundation.”

She now works two jobs to support her family, and volunteers at Magdalene House to help others.

2009 Vanderbilt Campaign chairs David Williams, vice chancellor for University Affairs and Athletics, and his wife, Gail Carr Williams, associate director of Community Engagement, joined Jeff Balser, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, in welcoming the volunteers.

“There is no doubt the campaign is making an impact in our community,” Balser said. “In the midst of economic downturn, Vanderbilt's dedication to community remains strong. And we're even more needed than before.”

Tiffany Davis, diagnosed with Lupus when she was 9, spoke on behalf of the Lupus Foundation, which uses money from Community Health Charities to fund support programs and educational conferences for newly diagnosed individuals.

“A lot of people don't know what lupus is,” she told the group. “But there are 1 million people living with lupus in the United States.”

Barbara Clinton, director of the Vanderbilt Center for Health Services, said the center receives money from Community Shares to offer programs like STEP, a grassroots organization interested in environmental issues.
The program links students to communities dealing with environmental problems.

And Robbie Hampton, principal of Harris-Hillman School, spoke to the group on behalf of the Nashville Alliance for Public Education, along with Susan Hickman, whose 11-year-old daughter, Shelby, has attended Harris-Hillman since she was 3.

The Alliance provided Harris-Hillman with $8,000 last year — money used to buy specialized equipment needed to serve its students who have severe multiple disabilities.

Over the coming weeks, departmental coordinators will be connecting with each of Vanderbilt's 23,000 employees, asking each to make his or her own personal contribution, which can be done through payroll deduction, cash or check, credit card or direct bill. Online giving is encouraged at www.vanderbilt.edu/communitygiving. The campaign ends Nov. 5.

“The No. 1 reason people don't give is because they're not asked,” said Sandra Robinson, director of internal campaigns. “All the little pieces put together make a big difference.”