Founder of 'Sweaters 2 Gifts' Candace Pugh

A 21-year-old senior at Syracuse University is in the giving and service spirit this Christmas season and looking to make a big impact on her community.

Candace Pugh of Syracuse, New York launched her Sweaters2Gifts philanthropic campaign on Monday and already the effort is picking up steam.

The Sweaters2Gifts, or S2G, campaign centers around unique holiday sweaters and button pins as well as donations to raise money to buy Christmas gifts for needy Syracuse families.

“Sometimes we lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas giving because we get so distracted by the commercial part of the holiday season,” Pugh said. “Sweaters2Gifts wants to reignite the spirit of giving by helping people to remember families and children that are less fortunate and improve the quality of their Christmas experience.”

In March 2012 the city of Syracuse had a poverty rate of 34 percent, or 44,500 residents, according to

This number is magnified around the holiday times Pugh explains. The poverty-ridden community suffers as a result.

“I feel a personal connection being from the city of Syracuse,” Pugh said. “Most of the students that go to Syracuse University attend the school, but don’t bother to step off campus or help the community out in any way.”

The S2G campaign is about inspiring young people to give to the initiative.

“In many ways I feel like I’ve been privileged, but I also know that if it were not for the generosity of other people who have made an impact on my own life, I know I would not be where I am today,” Pugh said. “One year when my family was going through rough times, my brother and I received gifts from a Syracuse shelter and to be honest, that was one of the best Christmases I’ve ever had.”

Pugh makes it clear that throughout her life she has been on both the receiving and giving end of generous people.

In the past year Pugh has had the opportunity to travel abroad to Spain as well as hold a steady internship with the Time Warner Cable Company, all because others saw fit to give.

“With graduation approaching I don’t know how much longer I will be in Syracuse and I don’t want to leave without leaving my mark,” Pugh said. “I didn’t want to be the type of person to become successful and leave and not give back to the people that have given so much to me.”

Pugh feels that she is giving back in a small way, but she hopes that this campaign can continue in the future for Christmases to come.

“Maybe this can spread around the country,” Pugh said. “Who knows where this can go.”

“We believe service during the holiday season of giving should be as second nature as wearing your favorite holiday season,” states Sweaters2Gifts press release.

The 2012 Sweaters2Gifts campaign will run from Dec. 17 – Dec. 22. Sweaters and pins to support the campaign will be available online for purchase.

Follow Marquise Francis on Twitter @mKfly