PEMBERVILLE - Neither rain, nor snow, nor a gloomy day could stay more than 30 Eastwood High School National Honor Society students from their appointed rounds Thursday as they delivered boxes overflowing with foodstuffs to Pemberville United Methodist Church.
|Alena Gabel, left, and Megan Selhorst, both seniors at Eastwood High School bring in non-parishable food items and gifts for the Angel Tree Project. (Photos: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
The drop-off was part of the annual Christmas Angel Tree Project, a collective effort of many area organizations and individuals, that this year will benefit 53 families and nearly 150 children in Pemberville alone.
"People have been just so, so gracious," said Marty Braucksieck, who has organized the Angel Tree for nearly the last 10 years.
"That's what Christmas is all about. It's the giving, not the receiving."
The effort begins with churches in the Pemberville, Luckey, and Stony Ridge areas, who work to identify families in need in their areas, largely through forms filled out by needy families who express interest in being enrolled in the project. The churches met in October this year, and divided up the lists.
"It's grown," Braucksieck said. "As the economy has gone down, the need, which is something I don't think is going to surprise anybody, the need has gone up."
"I take my list and I fly with that," she explained. Each child identified in the program is assigned a paper angel with what they would like for Christmas, and those angels are distributed to the Pemberville churches, Union Bank, and the Eastwood schools, where they can be adopted by a community "Angel." Each child's "Angel" is asked to spend at least $30 on them, and parents, when they fill out what the children might like, are encouraged to add items like warm winter apparel and boots.
"I get a lot of people that bring extra gifts."
"Our main goal is basically very simple, and that is to give a family a boost in the direction of Christmas. A lot of Christmas spirit, Christmas love being shown" to families who might not have much to offer around their trees, she said.
"Every family's coded," said Braucksieck, "there's no names on anything, because I feel it's very important" to maintain each family's privacy.
"We have a lot of kids that, these are kids they go to school with."
|Non-parishable food items for the Angel Tree Project.
Food is also collected, and distributed to those families who indicate that they would like to receive it.
The project is truly a community effort: more than four churches; 10 Eastwood staff, middle school and high school organizations; a series of local merchants; organizations like Brownie Troop #10854, Sons of the American Legion, and Modern Homemakers; and an army of anonymous donors help to make the Angel Tree possible.
The Eastwood NHS members helping out on Friday came to heft boxes in the rain after their mid-term exams at the high school.
The group's co-advisor, Eastwood math teacher Stephanie Schneider-Sims, noted that this is the 19th year that NHS members have held this food drive. Each academic assist period in the school competes to be the one to collect the most goods, with the winning period getting a pizza party. She estimated that between 2,000 and 3,000 individual food items were collected.
The high school NHS additionally adopted 10 of the Angel Tree children, and donated funds to the effort. Eastwood staff also donated money, and "we collected, probably around 60 or 70 extra toys, too."
NHS President Alena Gabel, and Vice President Megan Selhorst, were among those carrying the boxes into the basement of the United Methodist Church, which serves as the largest staging area for the effort. Families will collect their gifts and food at the church on Saturday.
"All of these kids have given their time," said Selhorst, indicating the throng of volunteers.
"It's really rewarding," said Gabel. "It's a really good feeling to help the community."