The sky was dark and the hallways were silent, but as I sat across from teacher Deidre Mills and asked her about the Adopt-a-Family fundraiser, her eyes lit up with bright light and excitement.
“We can [sometimes] take what we have for granted,” Mills said. “The Adopt-a-Family fundraiser is such a great program and opportunity for students here to reach out and to help [people in need].”
For the past six to eight years, FHC has been in association with Family Promise and together helped form the Adopt-a-Family fundraiser. Students are asked to donate money to this organization. In previous years, student council has used this money to buy items from a wishlist to for a specific family.
Within recent years, a new method to help out with Family Promise has been developed. The money donated from students at school is used to buy toys and household items. The student council then goes to Family Promise and works and volunteers at the Christmas Store. At the Christmas Store, parents are allowed to individually pick out and buy gifts for their children at discounted prices.
“Instead of us giving gifts for parents to give to their children, parents are allowed to buy the gift themselves at discounted prices for their own children,” Mills said. “ This way, a sense of pride can be felt among many of parents because they are buying a gift, instead of picking up a basket full of miscellaneous things, [like a charity.]”
Mills also says that when parents can individually choose their own gifts for their own kids, it gives them an empowering feeling that they can provide Christmas gifts for themselves. In that way, FHC is benefiting an entire group of families in need.
According to senior student Mitch Miller, working at the Christmas Store has been a touching, eye-opening, and humbling experience.
“In Kent County, every single school district, including Forest Hills, has at least one family that faces homelessness and is serviced by Family Promise,” Mitch said. “With this statistic in mind and knowing the mission at hand, the last four years that I have worked with Family Promise have truly been a humbling experience.”
Both Mills and Mitch agree that most of the people in attendance look like your normal typical “pass on the street guy.”
“By working at this store and interacting with these kids and families, I have learned that no matter what their economic condition is, most of these families are happy and are extremely grateful for their lives,” Mitch said. “Parents are extremely grateful for the work that we do each year because without our donations, the parents at Family Promise would be unable to provide any gifts for their children.”
Mills said that she has been strongly impacted and learned a lot from this experience. Working at the Christmas Store and seeing how the donations made by students help out Family Promise, makes her so thankful for what she has. She wishes that all of our students had to opportunity to see and work at this store.
“There is just a feeling of pride that we are able to help someone else,” Mills said. “You sit there and you see the looks of joy and happiness on everyone’s face, so how can you not be touched by it.”
Working at the Christmas Store is a favorite part of the holiday season for many of the students afflicted with student council and this program. According to Mills, working at this store is a very positive experience for FHC students. She enjoys helping people in need as much as she can, and this experience is a great way to help out.
As next week nears, the members of student council are asking for donations from students. If each student were to donate five dollars, Mitch says that it would be very beneficial and helpful towards the cause.
“The biggest struggle each year is awareness to the student body,” Mitch said. “Unfortunately, we cannot have every student volunteer at the Christmas Store and as a result, I believe that there is a disconnect between students and what the mission is we are trying to accomplish. As a result, this makes fundraising difficult.”
Mitch also says that this year student council has the goal to raise $10,000. Whichever class brings the most money wins prices, including ice cream and cookies.
“[To all of the students at FHC,] if everyone just donates $5 over the course of a week, we would have enough money to serve about 40-50 families,” Mills said. “With your help, we can serve and contribute to so many more than we normally would. Let’s help make their holiday season the best it can be.”