Student council prepares for Christmas store event after surpassing its fundraising goal

Student council prepares for Christmas store event after surpassing its fundraising goal

Cradling a sleeping infant in her arms, senior and student council board president Tess Bond felt relaxed and in her element.

As she gazed over at her peers and the other “holiday elves” who were helping out that day, Tess could not help but feel immense pride towards FHC and the fundraising FHC annually organizes for the nonprofit organization Family Promise.

According to Family Promise’s website, they directly partnered with families who are both homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. One family at a time, they are striving to end family homelessness in West Michigan.

“Family Promise was formed in downtown Grand Rapids,” Tess said. “They help families that are in housing crises make steps into moving into a new home. They host families that are homeless, and they also help aid them in the process of getting a new home.”

Over the course of twenty years, with the aid of over 2,000 volunteers, Family Promise has assisted over 3,000 children and 1,500 families in constructing a sturdy foundation for their family’s future by providing emergency services, permanent housing, case management, mentoring, and furniture donation services. In addition to serving families, Family Promise also hosts a Christmas store, which FHC’s students volunteer in.

“Before, it was just [the] Adopt a Family [program that they fundraised for],” Tess said. “We shifted more of the focus to the holiday store more recently.”

This year, the Christmas store will be held at Cornerstone Church in downtown GR (at the Heritage Hill campus), and the store will be open from the evening of Dec. 7 until the early afternoon of Dec. 8. 

To support the store, student council and National Honors Society (NHS) members completely provide the stock for it, using money from the Ranger Strong Week fundraiser to buy items like toys, cooking ware, and clothing. While filling the store with gifts is well-appreciated, the true gift of the store is the fact that the gifts are sold at extremely reduced prices and become more affordable for the homeless people to buy for their families. 

“This is really unique in the way that the families feel like they’re providing for their families during the holiday season,” Tess said. “I think is really rewarding to them.”

Because FHC is the sole provider for the Christmas store, it is remarkably crucial that student council raises enough money to fully stock the store annually. Likewise, being the single gift-giving school for the store is simultaneously what encourages students to be as passionate as they are about fundraising for the event.

“It’s really up to our school every year to put this on, and without us, it wouldn’t be possible,” Tess said. “I’m really proud of our school for being able to accomplish that every year.”

For the store event, primarily juniors and seniors will be invited to volunteer. As unfortunate as this situation is for underclassmen, the logic behind it is sound. With an overabundance of volunteers, the store could create a stressful situation for the families.

“They really want to have that happy medium [of volunteers],” Tess said. “I know a ton of people would like to volunteer because it is such an amazing cause, and it is really cool to see FHC in action. [But the grade restriction is] just so that it doesn’t get too overwhelming and too compact.”

For the students that will have a chance to volunteer, their task will be to provide aid in either the store or in creating crafts with the children. At the event, the children are entertained by student volunteers while their parents shop in the store to keep the spirit of Christmas alive and well. 

“It’s a really fun event, ” Tess said. “While the parents are off shopping, the kids hang out with us—the ‘holiday elves’ is what they call us. We make cookies, decorate ornaments, and [other] stuff like that. There are a ton of different things that you can be doing while you are there. It’s a holiday store, [and] it’s a great way to bring in holiday cheer.”

“It brings so much joy to me, and I hope it brings so much joy to everyone else,” Tess said. “It’s volunteering, but it’s so much fun when you’re doing it. I have a ball every year; I am [always] smiling ear to ear. Everyone involved is just so happy and so excited to be there. I think that’s what makes it the best thing: the excitement behind it and the feeling of helping people out.”

For Tess, her goal with Family promise is to spread holiday cheer to families who are struggling during the holiday season. She is humbled by the experience and thankful that she has been exposed to the reality of homelessness.

“I think it’s really important because we live in such an amazing community,” Tess said, “but I think a lot of us don’t realize there are people around us who are financially struggling. So, I think it’s really neat that our school puts in the effort to help people out. It has just really opened my eyes to what real life is outside of the Forest Hills ‘bubble.’”

Serving for her second year as an assistant to the event, AP Biology teacher Kristy Butler also agreed that it is important to provide aid to the less fortunate within the community.

“Family Promise is a very important organization in our community,” Butler said. “They have a great impact on family’s lives, and [they] help support people in times of need when [they] faced with a housing crisis. Without support from the Ranger community, Family Promise would have to look elsewhere for funding and potentially change how they are able to impact these families.”

Involving herself in the program for so many years, Tess has loved how she and her peers are able to impact the GR community. And in more ways in one, she and many others have reaped the benefits of selflessly serving the community annually.

“I just think it’s so important because these people are so kind and sweet,” Tess said. “Just giving back is the most rewarding feeling in the entire world. It makes me happy knowing that our school is responsible for all of this good. I’ve loved it every year that I’ve done it, and it will forever impact me.”