Employee Organizations Use $5,000 Award to Serve Together

  • May 9th, 2018

By Jamon Smith

The Faculty Senate, the Professional Staff Assembly, and the Office, Clerical and Technical Staff Assembly have teamed up for the first time to conduct joint service projects across campus and won a $5,000 award from the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America, better known as TIAA, to support the projects.

UA employee organizations service project

As part of its 100 Days of Difference campaign in celebration of its 100th anniversary, TIAA gave one-time monetary awards  to several TIAA-member colleges and universities who applied for the grants.

The combined employee groups chose three service projects:

– Providing dead week “cram bags” and $100 gift cards to the 31 students in UA’s Alabama REACH program.
– Building four salsa gardens at Brewer-Porch Children’s Center.
– Fulfilling classroom wish lists and holding a teacher appreciation event for the 15 Brewer-Porch teachers during the last week of May.

Dr. Rona J. Donahoe, professor of environmental geochemistry, president of UA’s Faculty Senate and spokeswoman for the three employee-organization coalition, said “I’m not sure how many awards TIAA gave out to member institutions, but it certainly did not go out to all of them. We intend for this joint service work to be ongoing. This first grant of $5,000 is wonderful, but we have several ideas for fundraising for early fall that will enable us to continue this work.”

Alabama REACH

The groups chose REACH because it is the project that the Faculty Senate and OCTSA have previously assisted. REACH empowers students who come from foster home settings, were or are homeless, are emancipated youth or orphans. These students lack a traditional family support system and need support while at UA.

At the dinner REACH students received the cram bags, as well as goodie bags with snacks and T-shirts.

“The students have access to a pantry and a clothes closet here, but their needs are ongoing. Many of them work two jobs to try to make ends meet.

“So, to further support those students First United Methodist Church generously provided tote bags containing personal care items, laundry detergent, toilet paper, cleaning supplies and other items. In addition, we are very grateful that Aramark/Bama Dining provided free catering for an end-of-the-semester dinner held for the group on April 26,” Donahoe said.

At the dinner students received the cram bags, as well as goodie bags with snacks and T-shirts.


The groups chose Brewer-Porch because it’s the traditional service project of the Professional Staff Assembly. Donahoe said the teachers asked the PSA to create salsa gardens for the students as a hands-on educational tool.

“It will be a small garden plot with four areas where they’ll plant and grow tomato plants, peppers, onions and cilantro,” she said. “Railroad ties will be used to delineate the garden and a gravel walkway will provide access to the planting areas. We’ll also have flower boxes on the edges.”

The party and wish list for Brewer-Porch were chosen because the teachers typically buy items for their classes out of their own pockets, and have never been celebrated before during Teacher Appreciation Week.

“Apparently, they’ve never had a Teacher Appreciation Day,” she said. “Brewer-Porch has seven different programs, one for children on the autism spectrum and others for students with behavioral issues. Their students go from ages 4 to 17.

“We plan to bring some food to their teacher’s lounge and present them with their wish lists. It is obvious that we can do much more to benefit these worthwhile groups by the employee organizations working together, rather than separately.”

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.