Spreading Holiday Cheer in a Challenging Year

Dec 18, 2020

by Greg Williams
Publications Editor

In mid-December of a typical year, after Florida Southern’s students and most of the faculty have left campus for their holiday break, FSC’s administrators and about 250 staff members would look forward to gathering for the College’s annual Holiday Coffee, a chance to relax and have some fun together.

The year 2020 has been anything but typical, of course.

Considering the realities of COVID-19, it was obvious that a large indoor party would be inappropriate — so FSC found new ways to share the same holiday spirit.

Dr. Kerr
With FSC’s Water Dome behind her, President Anne Kerr prepares to pitch a few oranges to employees on Dec. 15. “We have some really fun traditions at Florida Southern,” Dr. Kerr said, “and this was just an attempt to continue that fun spirit as we enjoy working with one another. I hope everyone will have a very merry Christmas!”

An announcement from President Anne Kerr detailed the first plan, to celebrate the season with the gift of a turkey or a box of cookies for all staff members to enjoy with their families. Each employee was invited to schedule a time for a drive-through pickup outside Wynee’s Bistro during the week before Christmas. This distribution of holiday goodies was greatly appreciated by all who participated.

Another memorable tradition of the Holiday Coffee was also missed: the orange toss. “The event includes a large raffle of gifts,” said Katherine Pawlak, assistant vice president of operations and director of human resources. “Among those gifts is usually a case or two of oranges.”

At a Holiday Coffee about 10 years ago, Dr. Kerr tossed an orange into the crowd. The laughter among employees encouraged additional tosses, and an annual party highlight took shape.

“The friendly game of catch and keep, or dodge, or duck, has been a staple of the event ever since,” Pawlak said.

On Dec. 15, with FSC’s Water Dome as a backdrop, Dr. Kerr took aim and sent oranges through the air toward dozens of physically distanced staffers. Although there were a few bobbles, the presidential tossing of the oranges successfully carried on as an FSC tradition.

“We all missed the party, for sure,” said FSC Provost Dr. Brad Hollingshead, “but I was so glad that we could get outside and keep the orange toss going. Plus, it was good to see that Dr. Kerr has lost nothing off of her fastball.”

Orange toss
Dr. Kerr tosses an orange to Human Resources Coordinator Maria Tidwell, who makes a softball-style catch. “My daughter played fastpitch travel ball, so I played catch with her a lot,” Tidwell said.
Catching an orange
Dan Perkins, athletic facilities assistant, makes a catch during the orange toss.
Brooke Veal of the School of Education selected cookies as her holiday treat.
Ricardo Figueroa, multi-unit food service manager at Florida Southern, delivers a turkey to M.C. Mendoza, materials and laboratory coordinator in Polk Science. Mendoza said she and her husband plan to smoke the turkey and share it with several friends as part of an after-Christmas gathering.