Gift and Thrift

Gift & Thrift. UWRF

Not all the knowledge acquired in college comes from sitting in a classroom.

Since 2011, students in the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Sales Promotions and Event Planning and Nonprofit Marketing Communications courses have hosted an event on behalf of a charity. Since that time, students have raised over $40,000 in cash and merchandise donations for local River Falls charities including Assistance & Resource Center, (ARC), Our Neighbors' Place and the River Falls Food Pantry. 

Students in the fall, 2021 sales promotions and event planning class are gearing up for this year's event, Gift & Thrift, which will take place from 4-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 1, at the University of Wisconsin River Falls University Center in the Falcon Nest.

This year's event will feature a silent auction for handmade gifts and gently used clothes on behalf of local River Falls charity Turningpoint For Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence. For more information about the event check out the Facebook event page,

Over the past 10 years, students have assisted national charities, including the Salvation Army, and Wounded Warriors, as well as partnered with Random Acts to deliver holiday gifts to victims of the 2017 Puerto Rico hurricanes.

"The first class-sponsored event collected socks and funds for victims of the 2011 Japanese tsunami," instructor Dave Bonko said. "We hosted an evening of student-performed music, including a fabulous Weezer cover band, at a local eatery. I think I spent over $300 to ship approximately 75 pounds of socks and slippers to Japan in three large boxes. The event also raised over $1,000." Bonko believes students benefit from mixing experiential with traditional learning methods.

"Today's students enjoy learning from rolling up their sleeves and 'doing' versus reading a case study or watching PowerPoint presentations. The class is more geared to preparing students for real-world situations they may face in the workforce. Students have to communicate with business professionals, work in a team setting, and most importantly, experience new adventures while making connections along the way. Sometimes they may feel a bit uncomfortable and unsure; however, those are certainly emotions felt when planning an event."

Cassandra Chmielewski, a recent UWRF Marketing Communications graduate and now graduate assistant for the Alumni Memorial Union at Marquette University echoed Bonko's sentiments.

“I loved the sales promotions and event planning class. I can’t begin to express how often I have referenced this class as an example in my interview for jobs,” she said. “I hope students can realize just how beneficial and impactful the class truly is.”

Greta Simmons, current UWRF Marketing Communications major, is in sales promotions and event planning.

“I enjoy Bonko’s class because it gives students an opportunity to plan a live event and have hands-on experience in the real world,” Simmons said.

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