When University of Maine students are faced with the decision between buying needed personal care items and funding their education, the Black Bear Exchange (BBE) steps in to bridge that gap. The BBE ensures that students, faculty and staff have access to toiletries, menstrual products and self-care essentials. The Honors College Student Advisory Board’s (HCSAB) “It’s Personal” campaign raised thousands of personal care items for the exchange.
Beginning Nov. 3 and ending Nov. 22, 13 boxes were placed all over campus for students, staff and community members to place their donations in. Each box was assigned to a team with the potential to win a mystery prize from the 3D Printing Club based on whoever gathered the most donations in their box. This year, that title went to the Honors College, which raised 339 donations.
This year’s campaign saw 2,166 items raised for the Black Bear Exchange, ranging from soap to toothbrushes to tampons. There was a 35% increase in donations this year from last year, according to HCSAB’s president Kate Kemper.
The “It’s Personal” campaign started in Spring 2021, with teams signing up in a March Madness-style bracket. This year’s edition, coinciding with the Thanksgiving holiday, brought in a lot of generosity from the community.
While the campaign got off to a slow start, 13 teams were registered by the signup date. Katharine Poulin, a first-year member of HCSAB, was in charge of team sign-ups.
“It was so great to not only get involved with the community but also give back to it,” Poulin stated. “I continue to be impressed with the amount of compassion and generosity people are capable of, and I am grateful that I am in a position where I can donate my time and effort to helping others.”
For the Honors College Student Advisory Board, which consists of mostly first-year members, a successful campaign like this cements faith in the UMaine community.
“It means so much to me to be able to make such a difference in our local community,” Kemper stated. “[E]specially to introduce the underclassmen to the Black Bear Exchange and the power a small group can have on the lives of others.”
HCSAB’s vice president Jacob Chaplin was especially excited about this year’s student involvement.
“Beyond the numbers, this year had more students directly involved and had more of the planning done within SAB meetings and by students who had not been involved prior, which was really the goal for Kate and me, as in the past it’s felt very siloed with only a few people doing a majority of the work,” Chaplin said.
Chaplin explained that this year’s campaign was a trial run for what a fall “It’s Personal” campaign would look like, and it ended up being incredibly successful.
“I think it’s only going to improve in the coming years,” Chaplin added.
Amanda Leveqsue, the HCSAB treasurer, met with Black Bear Exchange coordinator Lisa Morin to discuss this year’s campaign early in the semester.
“It was honestly enjoyable to set everything up, sort, and be able to help the Black Bear Exchange,” Levesque shared. “I was honestly terrified because, at first, it seemed no teams were joining. Then all of a sudden, we had 13 teams and received over 2,000 personal care products. It was the best turnout we’ve ever had.”
The Black Bear Exchange is accepting donations year-round. If you missed this year’s campaign or want to help keep the generosity flowing, stop by the location at 55 York Village or email direct questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.