High school students have been collecting items to help their neighbors deal with tough economic times during the holiday season.
Clubs, groups and whole classes have spent weeks building piles of goods that have been distributed. Here are some of their efforts.
Central High School
The cheerleaders gathered new and used clothing, blankets, towels, socks and shoes for the Dawn Center of Hernando County. They are directed by coach Christine Ferro, the school's learning strategies specialist.
DECA collected canned food for the Dawn Center and Behind the Stone Ministries. The collection was managed by senior Krysten Cortalano, DECA chapter vice president. "People who are less fortunate deserve to have a good holiday season," Krysten said, "so we want to help as much as we can."
Sophomore and DECA member Louis DeVico said, "I donated cans for the food drive because I know that there are people that are not as fortunate as many of us are."
Junior and DECA member Kelly-Anne Giles felt similarly. "I donated cans because I want to help the less fortunate,'' she said. "I know every year my family has a big Christmas dinner, and I wanted other families to be able to do the same. It makes me feel good to know I helped a family have a great Christmas."
The DECA adviser is business teacher Gino Ortiz.
Zoology/marine biology teacher Chad Willman does collections within his classes.
"Every year I attempt to impress a giving spirit into my students. I do this by creating a food, clothing, toy and other necessity drive. I choose several organizations in need and attempt to assist them in assisting our community," he said. The organizations chosen this year are New Beginnings, Jericho Road Ministries' food pantry and the Dawn Center.
For New Beginnings, a youth shelter, the students collected clothes, linens, toiletries, games, toys, food, hygiene and recreational items. Students were asked to bring in food for the Jericho Road pantry.
For the Dawn Center, which assists individuals faced with domestic violence, everything collected will be used to help with the center's services.
Hernando High School
The Spanish Honors Society collected soft toys. Member Shanley Carlton, a junior, said, "In two weeks, we collected over 250 stuffed animals. Society members visited classrooms around the school during first period daily and announcements were made encouraging kids to donate."
The honor society offered prizes. The class with the highest number of toys won a pancake breakfast.
"We gave all of the toys to Mid Florida Community Services," Shanley said. "HHS has been doing this since 1997. This sort of thing reminds me of what I have to be thankful for and what I have to give."
Shanley is the co-editor of her school's newspaper, Purple and Gold Press. The group's adviser is Spanish teacher, academic team sponsor and lead mentor Ana M. Garcia.
The French Honor Society members collected 60 pounds of food that was given to the Jericho Road food pantry.
Senior Tabitha Williams, French Honor Society president, told why she helped with the collection. "The holiday season brings many emotions for a lot of families and with the French Honor Society donating to families in need, it can help ease the stress and uncertainty of the upcoming holidays."
Springstead High School
The school's Key Club, Interact club, Spanish National Honor Society and Beta Club collected Toys for Tots.
The senior class students set up the Giving Tree in English teacher Nancy K. Urling's room. The tree held tags identifying wished-for items by children in the community. Students, faculty, staff and parents purchased gifts for children ranging in age from 9 months to 17 years.
"The gifts included clothing, dolls, games, stuffed animals, music, books and bicycles," Urling, senior class sponsor, said. "The gifts will benefit approximately 30 children in the community."
"The senior class collected items needed/wanted by the troops," Urling said, "filling nine large delivery boxes (approximately 3 by 3 feet). The items included soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors, lotions, books, pens, pencils, paper, envelopes, phone cards, socks, Bibles, etc."
Wider Horizons School
Wider Horizons School receives the names of needy families from St. Vincent de Paul for each class. The students and their families buy gifts from lists they receive.
"Everyone is incredibly generous and anxious to make a special Christmas for these families who have so little even during these difficult economic times," said school director Julie Maglio. "We have been doing this Christmas program for many years now."