Alumni care packages brighten up demanding month for Grinnell College students

Mar. 2, 2018Blanquita Pinto ’20 looked intently at the bags and boxes stylishly displayed before her on a table in the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center.

The Grinnell College student from Bolivia was searching for snacks that would give her an energy-infused boost for her studies during a taxing part of the academic year. Pinto was one of more than 800 students who picked up Everyday Class Notes care packages on Monday, the first of three distribution days.

Blanquita Pinto ’20, left, and two fellow Grinnell College students pick out a care package at the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center.
Blanquita Pinto ’20, left, and two fellow Grinnell College students pick out a care package Monday at the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center.

“These packages are great, especially in this part of the school year when everything is stressful,” Pinto says. “It’s nice of the alumni to send us care packages. And it’s nice that we have the opportunity to reply back and show our appreciation.”

Now in its fifth year, Grinnell College alumni made and shipped more than 1,350 care packages. Packages were distributed Feb. 26-28.

The initial idea to send the care packages bubbled up from a 2014 discussion on a Facebook group called Everyday Class Notes, or ECN for short. Several alums reminisced about their old Grinnell mailboxes in Carnegie Hall, mentioning either receiving notes from prior mailbox owners or sending something to the new mailbox owner after they graduated.

“It’s started out as a spontaneous act of kindness,” says Scott Shepard ’82. “We wanted to cheer up students during the dreary month of February. Through the ECN Facebook page, we started chatting about sending care packages to current students. Very quickly it was pretty apparent we could provide a care package to every student.”

Monique Shore ’90, left, Scott Shepard ’82, and Laura Shepard ’82
   Monique Shore ’90, left,
   Scott Shepard ’82, and
   Laura Shepard ’82

For the past three years, Scott and Laura Shepard ’82 have driven from Tulsa to bring care packages and help distribute them to students. This year they brought with them 120 packages. Besides making their own, five 1982 classmates sent funds to the Shepards to use for additional packages.

“We enjoy talking with the students and helping them pick out packages,” Laura says. “For us, it’s a blast to see the students and how they react.”

The Shepards put together a combination of snacks, toys, and practical things like tooth brushes, pencils, and laundry detergent. Like many alumni, they also include a letter and their contact information.

“There’s even some photos in the letter of us from our days at Grinnell,” Laura says.

The Shepards have heard back from many of the students in past years. Some who contacted them went on to stay at their house while traveling during Spring Break. Last year, a connection with students led to the Shepards bringing snacks to Grinnell’s Ultimate Frisbee team when they had a competition in Tulsa.

“The care package event not only lets students know alumni care about them and their experiences at Grinnell, but it also leads to students connecting with alumni,” says Mitch Wolff, assistant director of student programs for the College’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations.

Wolff says many alums flex their create muscles in putting together themed packages. For instance, Kiri Namtvedt ’88 sent a Star Wars-themed package while Kathryn Difoxfire Wilson ’93 made a number of different themed packages, such as Japanese food/gifts, chocolate lovers, and hiking.

Each student gets a ticket in their mailbox. They exchange the ticket for a package. Students can then pick any package that’s on the table. Some make a selection right away, while others carefully study the contents and ask questions to the alumni, staff, and students who volunteer with the distribution.

“The care package show how much alumni care,” says Cleveland native Dillon Caine ’21. “Alumni do so much for us. I don’t know any other school that would do this sort of thing for each student. It’s amazing.”

—by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

Alumni interested in sending care packages next year can join a Facebook group dedicated to the project. The Facebook site also had numerous photos and discussion about this year’s packages.