Western University of Health Sciences is getting into the spirit of giving as the holidays approach.

Among the charitable activities is a toy drive organized by the College of Graduate Nursing and the Master of Science in Nursing Entry (MSN-E) Class IV. The college placed collection bins throughout campus for new, unwrapped toys that will be given to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program.

At the heart of the College of Graduate Nursing is helping the underserved, said Eran Wilkerson, MSN-E Class IV president.

“From the first semester we learned that nursing is not just about treating our patients in a hospital setting, but treating them in their own homes and their own lives; to improve upon their lifestyles, not just upon their health,” he said. “We definitely believe in teaching, education and also making sure people have the right resources available to them.”

The toy drive will continue through Dec. 21, as will another charitable effort, the Season of Suppers pet food drive.

Season of Suppers, organized by Banfield, The Pet Hospital, collects pet food for Meals on Wheels programs throughout the country. WesternU collected more than 500 pounds of food last year, said Amy M. Raines, DVM, chief of staff of Banfield, The Pet Hospital at WesternU.

“What happens is people that get Meals on Wheels are often times elderly or low income who think of their pets first,” she said.

They feed the food they receive from Meals on Wheels to their pets and don’t eat, which is harmful to both, Raines said. Collecting pet food ensures Meals on Wheels recipients and their pets both receive the nutrition they need, she said. Banfield is also collecting monetary donations and selling calendars to benefit We All Love Our Pets, which seeks to unite Meals on Wheels Association of America programs that provide pet food.

WesternU will soon welcome about 170 children to campus for the 18th annual Santa’s Workshop, run by the Student Government Association with support from the Office of Student Affairs.

The children, ranging in age from 2 to 17, are invited to visit WesternU through the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, said Beverly Guidry, EdD, WesternU vice president of Student Affairs.

WesternU employees and students volunteer to take a paper ornament with a child’s name, age, gender and wish list item. They buy at least one gift, wrap it and a return it with the paper ornament attached.

People often take three or four ornaments or go far beyond what the children ask for when buying presents, Guidry said.

“I think this is one of best community projects we’re involved in as an entire university, across all disciplines,” she said. “The generosity of our university really shines.”

The children spend a day on campus and participate in activities such as a Christmas play, face painting, arts and crafts, a turkey dinner and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus. Each child receives a gift or gifts based on their wish list. If a child does not attend, their gift is donated to another organization that distributes presents to underprivileged children.

These children are in foster care or perhaps living with a parent or relative who is struggling financially, said Pam Risinger, team decision-making supervisor for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.

“It’s a four-hour event that really gives Christmas to a whole family,” Risinger said.

Visiting a university campus also puts the idea of higher education in their minds, she said. Many of the children have never been on a college campus. Everyone in the department’s Pomona office is aware of the university’s contributions and are extremely grateful, Risinger said.

“To me, it’s the most beautiful party that’s ever given,” she said.

For more information about Season of Suppers call Banfield, The Pet Hospital at (909) 865-2433.

For more information about the Toys for Tots campaign visit the Web site www.toysfortots.org.