By Linda Coutant
The staff member pictured with Jean Pruitt and Santa during an AppKIDS shopping day in the mid-1980s is Andrea Mitchell ’77, who still works at Appalachian State University. She is a program director with Conference and Camp Services. She has volunteered with AppKIDS all but one of the service project’s 37 years.
“It’s a passion of mine. I enjoy working with children,” said Mitchell, who also has served on the project’s planning committee for the past 20 years.
AppKIDS is a service project of Appalachian’s Staff Senate and stands for “Appalachian Kindness in Donations and Service.” Staff and faculty, using funds they donate, volunteer their time one day each November to mentor and guide the children in their purchases of coats, boots, pants and other necessities for the winter months.
Mitchell said she enjoys getting to know the children and usually asks them if they’ve thought about going to college. “I tell them that they can go, that there are scholarships and grants available. If they keep up their grades or excel in something, there are ways you can go to a university or to a community college.”
When time allows during the shopping day, she likes to give them a short driving tour of campus. “A lot of them have never been on campus before,” she said.
Mitchell said she remembers taking Pruitt shopping in one of her early years as a volunteer. At the time, Mitchell, a business administration major while in college, worked at Broyhill Inn and Conference Center in sales and marketing. For the past 14 years, she has organized logistics for conferences, camps and workshops at Appalachian through Conference and Camp Services.
Appalachian is a good place to work, she said. “AppKIDS is all volunteer. We have 12-15 people who give their time to serve on the planning committee. We don’t have to ask, people want to be on the committee and we meet all year” to plan the event, she said.
Children for the program are selected based on family need by guidance counselors and social workers at the nine Watauga County public schools. Each year, the program helps 90 children.
Year after year, the need to help remains, Mitchell said. The U.S. Census Bureau rates the number of Watauga County residents living in poverty at 26 percent. “It’s a benefit to the community. It really makes a difference,” she said about AppKIDS.