OU employees and volunteers traveled across campus for the annual Fill the Trolley event Tuesday as 31 departments on campus donated gifts to The Christmas Store, a local nonprofit that provides Christmas gifts and food vouchers to families in Cleveland County.
They began at Monnet Hall, but one person was missing. Laurie McReynolds worked at the Carl Albert Center for two decades, recently retiring only to receive a bone marrow transplant as part of her battle against polycythemia. She was instrumental in gathering donations every year for Fill the Trolley.
In October, Laurie died from complications from the transplant, but her presence was felt Tuesday afternoon, as her friends and former co-workers in Monnet Hall donated 24 bicycles in her name.
"She was always positive, no matter what," said Kay Blunck, an accounts specialist for both World Literature Today and the Carl Albert Center. Blunck, along with WLT's Terri Stubblefield, worked with Laurie for almost 20 years, and all three worked together each year preparing Monnet Hall's donation to Fill The Trolley.
"She was just a special person, and everyone who knew her loved her," Blunck said.
The 24 bikes are a record for Monnet Hall, an effort that started with only a handful of donations.
"The first year, Terri, RC (WLT executive director Robert Con Davis-Undiano) and I got together and bought three bikes," Blunck said. "The next year, instead of exchanging gifts, we all put money toward bicycles, and we were able to purchase eight. The next year, Laurie campaigned; she talked with everyone in the building. She was shameless about it. She wanted to help people who might not get a Christmas gift receive one, and it's even better when it's something that helps people be active."
Tuesday, volunteers carried the bicycles to one of the new CART trolleys, enjoying homemade cookies and taking a few photos with Santa Claus, who was along to help out. Fill the Trolley is organized by Cleveland Area Rapid Transit (CART). CART planner and grants specialist Taylor Johnson has been involved in the effort for the past three years, and he said it's always a rewarding experience.
"We have so many faculty and staff who give; it's an opportunity to give back," he said. "As a side note, one of the other things I always enjoy is walking around campus with Santa Claus. The students don't expect it, and they always enjoy it."