Alumna uses team approach to assemble 97 care packages

Kathryn (Kat) DiFoxfire Wilson ’93
   Kathryn DiFoxfire Wilson ’93

Mar. 01, 2019Kathryn DiFoxfire Wilson ’93 helped put a smile on the faces of nearly 100 Grinnell College students this week by providing them with care packages filled with treats and numerous little surprises.  

She is among the many Grinnell alums who participated in the Everyday Class Notes care package project.

Now in its sixth year, Grinnell College alumni made and shipped 1,380 care packages. The packages were distributed to students Feb. 25-27 in the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center (JRC). Each student received a ticket in their mailbox. They exchanged the ticket for any package they wanted on the distribution table. A record 710 packages were picked up on Monday, the first day of distribution.

The initial idea to send the care packages bubbled up in 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.

“I saw a post on Facebook about it a couple of years ago, but it didn’t occur to me right away than it was open to all alums,” Wilson says. “I got involved last year and had a lot of fun compiling the packages, so I decided to do it again this year. Many Grinnell students are far from home, so I think it’s nice that everyone receives a care package.”

Students contemplate which care package to choose during distribution Tuesday at the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center.
Students contemplate which care package to choose during distribution Tuesday at the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center.

With a hand from fellow alums, Wilson put together 97 care packages, about twice as many as she assembled the previous year. All the packages had themes and there were a wide variety of subjects for students to choose from.

Many packages were animal themes, including selections that focused on owls, penguins, moose cheetahs, and of course Wilson’s namesake, foxes. Other packages took on a food/drink theme, such as tea lovers, chocolate lovers, homecooked meals, Girl Scout cookies, and a package based on Pacific Northwest foods where Wilson lives. Other packages had colorful themes, such as purple unicorn and green/luck of the Irish.

Other alums Wilson connected with on ECN pitched in to ensure she could send so many packages and have so many unique items within each package. Trustee Tobi Klein Marcus ’87 and Aaron Stockham ’01 helped fund some of the purchases. Kathleen Kern ’93 and Julie Kaster Estlick ’92 helped pay for the shipping. Fae Townsend ’01 assembled and delivered the Dr. Seuss Party care packages and added some goodies of her own. Sarah Eagan Anderson ’98 packaged and delivered the Girl Scout cookie packages with the help of her daughters and their Girl Scout troop.

In addition, Wilson wrote a letter to students with contributions from Stockham and Estlick that was included in the care packages. Often times, students write back to alums to thank them. Wilson said she interacted with several students who received a care package last year.

“Last year I received about 10 letters, and I got to meet one of the students,” Wilson says. “I told her if she is ever in the area to give me a call, and she came out here for a trip during fall break last October. It’s really nice to hear from students, and I think honestly that’s one of the main motivations of doing these care packages.”

Contents of the fox-themed care package are displayed before Kathryn DiFoxfire Wilson ’93 shipped it to Grinnell.
Contents of the fox-themed care package are displayed before Kathryn DiFoxfire Wilson ’93 shipped it to Grinnell.

The interaction sometimes makes Wilson recall her own days as a student at Grinnell. She knew she wanted to be a teacher at the time, and the College helped prepare her.

 “The first real job I got was teaching and it happened to be at a school overseas in Jakarta, Indonesia, which was a huge culture shock for me, especially with it being half way around the world and in conditions that were very different than what I grew up with,” she says.

Wilson later taught in New England at Nature’s Classroom, and then worked at a state park in Missouri giving cave tours and teaching people about bats, local history, and nature conservation. Today, she is a stay-at-home mom in Gig Harbor, Washington, and volunteers whenever she can.

“I credit Grinnell for my critical thinking abilities and being able to talk to people from all walks of life,” she says.

Mitch Wolff, assistant director of student programs for the College’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations, said volunteers like Wilson help build a bridge between Grinnell’s students and alumni.

“It’s always heartwarming every year to see the students pick out their care packages,” he says. “Many acknowledge how much they appreciate the alums for thinking of them, and several take it a step further by reaching out to them directly. The bonds formed through this project and the generosity displayed make the care packages one of the high points of the spring semester.”

—by Lisa 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 has numerous photos, videos, and discussion about this year’s packages.

To read more alumni news, check out our news archive.