Petra: The Club that Gives Back

BY: KRISTYN LEON

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It's the most wonderful time of the year. Exchanging those ornate gifts under the colorfully-lit Christmas tree, the sweet smell of delicious delights cascading throughout the kitchen, and cozying up with that significant someone by the dimly lit fire, burning through a cold wintery night. While most of us are putting together our Christmas lists this holiday season, the Petra Club at Cal State Long Beach is putting together their "grown up" Christmas list, not for themselves, but for other families in need.

The spirit of Christmas offers a time to give, a time to appreciate, a time of selflessness. In the words of Mark Twain, "it is better to give than to receive" and this is true for the CSULB Petra Club, a community service oriented club that promotes events of all kinds: Food banks, beach cleanups, humanitarian causes, and during Christmas time, the Giving Tree.

The Giving Tree is an annual event that this campus club is known for. The club itself, established in 2004 on the CSULB campus, extends throughout the greater Los Angeles area, Long Beach, parts of Orange County and Costa Mesa. The Greek translation for Petra is  "pebble," as a pebble makes ripples when it is thrown in the water, Petra seeks and strives to make ripples at the university and in the community.

"With direction from the Long Beach Health Department, Petra ‘adopts' a Long Beach family in need and gives them a Christmas full of presents, decorations and good food," said Emma Hawes, president of Petra. "Giving Tree offers us the opportunity to not only to give back during the holiday season, but also see how our contributions have directly made a positive effect to the family," she continued.

This collaborative community effort during Christmas time eludes "tidings of comfort and joy" for its members as well.

"Last year, our family was a mom, dad, and six young kids under the age of six in a two bedroom apartment in North Long Beach. We brought over a Christmas tree, decorations, and gave them a big screen TV," said Hannah Patton, Petra's public relations officer. "What broke my heart was when one of the little kids became so excited, he said, 'they never had a real Christmas tree before'. This in itself brought tears to my eyes."

Hawes also shares the same outlook on her Giving Tree experience.

"Giving Tree has given Petra a whole new outlook on the meaning of Christmas because it reiterates that Christmas isn't just about getting presents and more stuff that we want, but a time to help out those who really need these things they are asking for," she said. "Many are just struggling to get by in day-to-day life, so Christmas is a time to appreciate what you have and give back to those who really need it. "

Made up of over 40 members, Petra is also known for their other charitable work in the Long Beach area such as lunches for the homeless, local car washes, fund raisers, and beach cleanups.

"The thing that I love most about giving back is that it really shows that any little thing you do can make a big difference," said Patton.

Being a neighbor to your fellow community members is much more than just living in the same area for this group of involved individuals. It's about fellowship, fostering companionship, and self-less acts of love that go a long way. Miracles happen, especially at this most wonderful time of the year.