Hugs from Home

Do you remember the thrill of opening your mailbox and having snail mail addressed to you? Not a bill. Not a coupon for the new restaurant nearby. A letter from someone with your name on it. It brought such a sense of joy each time it happened to me growing up. Now today, I think our inboxes seem to have adopted the same thrill. When it’s not junk mail, spam, or another all campus email about the big game; a personal email from someone special seems to provoke the same glimmer of joy as that intentional letter once did. So here at University of Memphis, we offer parents and family members the chance to support their student and give a little nudge of encouragement through our Hugs from Home program so that their student's inbox can have that special subject line: You have a Hug from Home!

The program: Hugs from Home is a program with one main goal and two major impacts. Parents and family members have the opportunity to purchase a "Hugs from Home" bottle on our website at any time of the year. This allows them to send a “hug” whenever their student might need it most. It provides a way for them to support and encourage from afar, and in an intentional way with items that family members always seemed to provide. The proceeds of this purchase go directly to our Tiger Pantry, which benefits students in need. 

Bottles are $15 and include little ways to stay happy and healthy while away at school. In each bottle, students receive candy (kisses, smarties, nerds & lifesavers), a band-aid dispenser, hand sanitizer, tissues, and Tiger spirit items like our coveted tiger tail. On the order form parents and family members are able to add a personalized note to encourage their student.

The background work: We did a bulk order of all the materials we needed for this project. The water bottle costs were approximately $3; band-aid dispenser <$1; hand sanitizer <$1; tissue pack <$1; Tiger sticker <$1; candy <$1. The tiger tails were donated from our Alumni Association and also help to promote a student organization. In total, our expense for the entire package was approximately $6.50. If you are looking for a great vendor to work with to get stellar prices, Matt Plunkett at Teamwear Graphics is our guy! We made the orders, packed the bottles, and set up a cute template on Publisher to transfer the parent or family member’s message onto to then attach it to the bottle.

Logistics: We promote Hugs from Home on our social media sporadically throughout the year and give it a plug in our Parent and Family E-News. You can view the sign up form here. After the family member purchases a Hugs from Home bottle, we send an email directly to the student letting them know that someone special has purchased a gift for them to pick up in our office. As our campus is primarily off-campus students, we chose to have students pick up their package, as this indirectly communicates to students that Parent & Family Services is an office on campus available to assist them in their needs and lets them know where we are located. The parent or family member also receives an email from us letting them know that their student has been notified. We organize all of our orders, notifications, and pick-ups in our free project manager system, Asana. This keeps everyone in the office on the same page.

So that one little email with the subject line: You have a Hug from Home! has a big impact. Parents and family members are able to connect with their student. Students get to feel supported and encouraged by their loved ones. The campus community is supplied with essential items to ensure every student can feel a hug during their time of need.

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