Holiday Helping: Toys, Food, Pet Baskets

Volunteers give Holiday Pet Basket to man and his dog.
Volunteers give Holiday Pet Basket to a man and his dog at the Mercer Clinic for the Pets of the Homeless.

Every toy in any one of the several blue barrels around campus is welcome in UC Davis’ annual Toys for Tots drive, coordinated by Mail Services since 2016. Put your toy donation in a barrel (or leave your donation with your department’s outgoing mail), and you’re done.

Toys for Tots logo, "Toys for Tots" written on the side of a red train.

But, there’s one barrel that will be the centerpiece of a festive event: a Holiday Open House from 1 to 3 p.m. this Saturday (Dec. 8) at the campus fire station on Kleiber Hall Drive off Hutchison Drive. Student resident firefighters are inviting students, staff, faculty and their families, and others in the Davis community — to drop off toys and stay for firehouse tours and cookie decorating. It’s free (other than the cost of buying new, unwrapped gifts for children up to the age of 16).


Mail Services also runs UC Davis’ Holiday Food Drive. Here are the totals for 2018:

  • Davis campus — 1,080 pounds for Yolo Food Bank
  • Sacramento campus — 1,624 pounds for Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services

The numbers are down from last year, most likely due to the campus closure that began Nov. 13, three days before the food drive ended. Still, 2,704 pounds of food is a good thing any way you slice it, can it or box it!

In the food drive’s 14-year history, the Davis and Sacramento campuses have donated 28,973 pounds of food. Thank you, donors and Mail Services!

All of the toys will go to the overall UC Davis collection, run by Mail Services on behalf of the Yolo County Marine Corps League, which distributes the toys to children across the county.

Student firefighter Jack Gordon said he and his colleagues thought of the Holiday Open House as a way to add some fun to the act of donating, for students and other community members and their families — and hopefully encourage more donations to Toys for Tots.

Donations are welcome through Thursday, Dec. 13, at Toys for Tots barrels at the fire station and elsewhere on and off campus (we’ve got a list of the locations here), or by leaving toys with your department’s outgoing mail. In fact, leaving toys with your outgoing mail is what Mail Services prefers, unless you have a blue barrel in your unit. Please remember: new and unwrapped, for children up to age 16.

More information is available by sending an email to Mail Services.

A drive-through toy drive for UC Davis Children’s Hospital will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, Dec. 19-23.

Addressing basic needs

Unitrans and the Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center are putting on separate events this month to benefit students in need. The campus-city transit system will hold its annual Stuff a Bus event to collect food for the ASUCD Pantry, while Aggie Compass will have a fundraising dinner at the ASUCD Coffee House.

Drawing of Unitrans bus with cans and boxes of food stuffed inside, with gold ribbon around the bus

The Pantry, a student-run organization, regularly seeks donations of such items as canned vegetables and canned fruit, canned meat (chicken and tuna), low-sugar cereal, peanut butter, whole grain pasta, rice, canned or dry beans, 100 percent fruit juice and shelf-stable milk and milk alternatives (almond and soy), and healthy snacks (granola, nuts and seeds, breakfast bars and graham crackers).

• A Night to End Campus Hunger: A Benefit Dinner for the ASUCD Pantry and Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center — An informal evening of conversation, dinner and music, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17, at the ASUCD Coffee House in the Memorial Union. Tickets: $20 per person, on sale Wednesday (Dec. 5), available online (look for the link here). All proceeds benefit UC Davis students in need, through the ASUCD Pantry and Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center.

The physics of running

 physics symbol made to look like turkey (three of them)
Team logo: Running Coupling Constants.

The Department of Physics’ Running Coupling Constants team is switching things up this year, participating in the Davis Turkey Trot while the Yolo Food Bank’s benefit run (Running of the Turkeys) takes the year off.

The Davis Turkey Trot had been scheduled for Nov. 17, but, because of the wildfire smoke that filled the air at that time, the trot has been rescheduled to this Saturday (Dec. 8). And the Running Coupling Constants team invites you to join them.

When you sign up with the Running Coupling Constants for any of these distances — 5K, 10K, 2-mile, half-marathon — the Davis Turkey Trot will give $5 of your registration fee to the Yolo Food Bank. Also, Lloyd Knox, Richard Scalettar and David Wittman of the physics faculty will donate an additional $25 for each of the first 40 people who sign up.

In addition, Knox, Scalettar and Wittman will match other donations to the Yolo Food Bank, dollar for dollar up to $1,400. Donations can be made via the Yolo Food Bank website. If you want your donation to receive the match, be sure to complete the second-to-last section of the online form, “If you have a special purpose for your donation, please let us know.” Indicate in the box that you want to dedicate your donation to “Running Coupling Constants.”

So, if the faculty members muster at least 40 runners and $1,400 in donations, the Yolo Food Bank will receive a minimum of $4,000 to help feed the hungry.

Sign up here (select the Yolo Food Bank-Running Coupling Constants as your team).

Learn more about the Turkey Trot: location, starting times, etc.

Holiday Pet Baskets

Volunteer gives Holiday pet Basket to a woman and her cat.
A Holiday pet Basket for a woman and her cat.

The Mercer Clinic elves, who are volunteers from the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, are preparing their Holiday Pet Baskets for delivery this weekend and still raising funds — if not to use for this year’s distribution, then for next year’s.

The Holiday Pet Baskets, including food and treats, toys and brushes, and coats and sweaters, are for dogs and cats belonging to homeless people.

The basket project began 23 years ago for the benefit of homeless people whose pets receive care at the Mercer Clinic for the Pets of the Homeless on the grounds of Sacramento’s Loaves & Fishes, which provides food and shelter and other services to homeless people. The clinic is open once a month as an all-volunteer effort of UC Davis veterinary students, preveterinary undergraduates and veterinarians.

The Holiday Pet Baskets started out with food, treats and brushes. About five years ago, the elves started handing out coats and sweaters, too. “They are critical to help with the survival of the pets through the winter, since they are not allowed in many of the homeless shelters,” said Eileen Samitz, a veterinary hospital retiree who serves as the project’s co-coordinator.

This year the Mercer elves, with the help of the Mercer Clinic’s student officers, are preparing 100 baskets for dogs and 30 for cats, with the distribution set for this Saturday (Dec. 8) during the monthly clinic.

Donations to Holiday Pet Baskets are tax-deductible and can be made as follows:

  • Online — (through the UC Davis Giving website)
  • Check — Payable to “UC Regents-Mercer Clinic Holiday Pet Baskets.” Mail to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Office of the Dean, P.O. Box 1167, Davis 95617-1167, Attention: Mercer Clinic Holiday Pet Baskets.

For more information, contact co-coordinator Eileen Samitz by email,, or phone, 530-756-5165.

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