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Schools work to provide gifts for low-income students

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Each year students from local schools raise money and donate presents for local families in need, including some of their classmates.

Local schools play two roles in helping needy families. They get their students involved in collecting donations of canned goods and toys for local programs, such as Christmas Angels and Good Cheer Fund, and connect families in need with those programs.

And if families miss the deadline to sign up for those programs or if teachers or counselors know of students who aren’t participating, then they buy presents and food for them.

School officials said they aren’t trying to replace programs already in place, such as the Good Cheer Fund, which delivers baskets of food to families in need. They want to help families in need whose children attend their schools.

“This is something that I choose to do because I like to get my students involved. I like the fact that our kids can help our kids; I think there’s nothing better than that,” Clark Elementary School counselor Kelly Forey said.

The programs at local schools give food and Christmas gifts to dozens of families and children across the county.

Forey has been sponsoring an effort for the past decade that raises money for presents as many as 21 students each year. Each year, students in the Business Professionals of America club at Whiteland Community High School also buy presents for 30 to 40 of the school district’s elementary school students.

In Franklin, residents buy gifts for families of students from Northwood Elementary, where about 60 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. Northwood counselor Ellen Mae Paris gives the names of 15 to 20 students to teachers and residents who shop for them.

Local schools also help connect families with programs such as Christmas Angels and the Good Cheer Fund, which have been in place for years to help families in need during the holidays.

For example, more than 1,700 local children are expected to receive gifts through the United Way this year, and Paris and Forey said they’re not trying to replace the programs already in place.

“They go hand-in-hand as far as I’m concerned,” Paris said.

The United Way gets the names of the local students it provides presents for from schools’ guidance counselors. The counselors announce the program’s deadline through school newsletters in the fall and ask low-income families interested in participating to contact them for more information.

But not all families realize they need help until after the sign-up date has passed. At Clark Elementary School, Forey uses the money she raises each year to buy presents for those students whose parents missed the deadline.

Ten years ago, when she started as a counselor at the school, she set up a program in the fall to raise money for students’ Christmas presents. This year, the school raised about $1,700.

Once the money is collected, Forey asks parents of the students she’s shopping for to fill out Christmas wish lists. Then members of the student council go shopping for the presents. They have lists of what to buy but don’t know what students they are shopping for, Forey said.

Earlier this month, the students’ toys and clothes were given to their parents, along with wrapping paper and bows.

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