It’s the season of goodwill and our local schools, civic organizations and churches are going the extra mile to assist those in need.
Students at Valley Vista Elementary School rounded up their extra, unwanted Halloween candy and distributed treat boxes to local veterans’ groups, senior centers and the Malachi Center serving the near West Side of Cleveland, said Principal Jeff Hill. Hill has special ties to the community and family resource center as his father volunteered there for 30 years. Students also participate in the annual giving tree and collect outdoor wear, boots and socks for the Malachi Center.
“I drive our school’s donations to Saint Malachi and sometimes our students collect so many things that it takes me two trips,” Hill said. “About three years ago, when I was driving down, I had my nice winter boots on my passenger seat and as I was sitting in my car, I saw a homeless person standing at Saint Malachi wearing tennis shoes with holes in them and no socks. I gave my boots to him. Saint Malachi has been in my family for a long time and it feels good to know our donations are directly going to the homeless and needy.”
The elementary school’s “Girls on the Run” team, which instills life skills through lessons and running, is also hosting a “bedtime drive” collecting pajamas and books for children in foster care and members of Student Council are active with their candy collection and giving tree activities, Hill added.
At Royal View Elementary School, the Holiday Giving Tree raised more than $1,200 in gift cards, said Counselor Beth Ann Kleem. Students also donated canned food items for Thanksgiving food baskets.
“We are always promoting kindness at Royal View,” Kleem said. “We encourage our students to be kind and helpful. It appears to be a theme in our building. Both our service projects created an atmosphere to show kindness by helping families within our community. Service projects teach our students the value of joy through giving. We want our students to learn the value of giving so it continues with them throughout their lives. The generosity of our Royal View families has always been so phenomenal and once again that stood true with the amount of gift cards and canned food that came in for both our service projects.”
Students and staff take the concept of kindness even further.
“Within the building itself, the Grinch stands tall on the main bulletin board stating how his heart was so small and let us at Royal View show him we care for one and all,” Kleem said. “As students show kindness to each other they are to put their name on a heart and place it on the bulletin board next to the Grinch. This is just another way to promote kindness that doesn’t cost anything – a smile, a hug, a joke, a compliment, the gift of friendship, holding the door for each other, a morning greeting. Some of the classrooms also have a “12 Days of School” tree where the students flip a card and there is an act of kindness on the card the students are to perform for either family, friends or within the building.”
Over at Albion Elementary School, donations for the North Royalton Food Bank filled the school’s front lobby and spilled into the halls, said Principal Vince Ketterer. Members of Student Council organized and promoted the annual food drive.
“Albion Student Council will be creating Christmas and Holiday cards,” Ketterer added. “The holiday message of hope will be delivered to local nursing homes and retirement communities.”
Middle-schoolers have also been active this holiday season.
“North Royalton Middle School Student Council advisors Mrs. Brown, Mrs. O’Donnell, Mrs. Purnell and Mrs. Stanowick coordinated ‘Project Thanks’ again this year. NRMS raised $1,890 to distribute in gift cards to 20 families who have students at the middle school,” said Principal Jeff Cicerchi. “Generous NRMS staff members picked a tag off of the ‘Project Thanks’ wreath and purchased gift cards that were then donated to our NRMS families.”
The middle school’s annual “Staff vs. Students” volleyball and basketball games also generated revenue for “Project Thanks” and allowed for additional gift cards to be purchased.
“Earlier in the season, NRMS collected cans and boxes of food to donate to the North Royalton Food Bank,” Cicerchi added. “Each grade level collected items to help out families in our community. We collected more than 1,300 cans and boxes of food. Thank you to all who donated.”
North Royalton High School students are always caring and sharing, said Kriste Smith, business teacher and Caring Closet coordinator. The “Caring Closet” stocks items such as clothing, undergarments, toiletries, winter outerwear and shoes and is open to students in need, explained Rachel Hoag, school counseling department chair. A generous NRHS parent organized a fundraiser that raised more than $4,000 collecting groceries, gifts and “Caring Closet” items, Hoag said. Members of Student Council also organized an Adopt-a-Family fundraiser with students raising monies for school families in need. Student Council is given a nameless, confidential list and members shop for their peers and wrap the items, Hoag said.
The school’s “Holiday Cheer” program identifies students who can “shop” for their parents/guardians free of charge. Items are donated new by staff members and students also incorporate a hand-written Christmas card to their recipient. The North Royalton Garden Club also teamed up for the program and made donations.
The Transportation Department held their own fundraiser and raised $400 totaling eight $50 gift cards to Giant Eagle that were given to families for help with Christmas dinner, Hoag said. Together with Principal Sean Osborne, Hoag hand-delivered groceries and toiletries to a family in need.
Students at Saint Albert the Great School are again doing “great” deeds for those less fortunate this holiday season and throughout the year.
The branches of an evergreen tree in the school’s lobby are filled with donations of winter hats and mittens to be given to the Christ Child Society, said Principal Ed Vittardi. A toy, game, restaurant gift card and adult sock collection benefits Saint Albert’s partner parish Saint Michael the Archangel and a large toy collection will go to the police department. In addition, students craft monthly prayer cards for the sick of the parish and collect monthly donations of food items for family aid. A recent “OSU vs. Michigan” raffle garnered more than $400 for a local family in need.
“In January, there will be a coin collection in baby bottles to raise money for Woman Kind,” Vittardi added. “Every classroom will get a bottle to fill with loose change and the total raised will be given to the Right to Life ministry at the church to be given to Woman Kind at their annual baby shower event.”
At the parish level, Saint Albert the Great Church is doing Advent Giving Tree donations for Birthright, Boys Hope Girls Hope, Christ Child Society, Koinonia Homes, Metanoia Project, Migration and Refugee Service of Catholic Charities, St. Herman’s, St. Michael the Archangel (Scranton and Clark), Westside Catholic Center and the SATG Family Aid Society. Parishioners also “adopt” families in need, said Denise Bobulsky, service and volunteer coordinator.
The Feeding the Hungry Ministry also provides a hot holiday meal to persons at the Westside Catholic Center Moriah House, St. Augustine’s, St. Michael the Archangel at Scranton and Clark, St. Herman’s and the Metanoia Project of St. Malachi.
“In total, nearly 800 meals will be provided and served to those in need of a hot meal,” Bobulsky said. “The St. Albert Social Adults (SASA) provided and packed home-baked holiday cookies delivered to our homebound parishioners; a simple thing that means so much.”
Monthly charitable acts and missions also continue at Royal Redeemer Lutheran School where students in December have been collecting sheet sets for Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center on Puritas Avenue in Cleveland, said Principal Heidi Malone. Students are also contributing to the “Adopt A Family” program.
Royal Redeemer Lutheran Church has several charitable initiatives, including “Angel Tree,” which connects parents in prison with their children through the delivery of Christmas gifts given on behalf of the incarcerated parent, said Community Relations Coordinator Kim Elgin. The Royal Redeemer Food Pantry Partnership with the City of North Royalton is operated out of the church and their Christmas food distribution drive will provide 155 families with a turkey, kitchen staples and personal care items, Elgin said. As part of the Adopt-a-Family program, gifts are donated and distributed to the children of the families. Veterans and shut-ins also receive donations. Congregation members are also contributing to the Laura’s Home sheet set collection.
The church also teams up with Samaritan’s Purse, a humanitarian aid organization based in North Carolina, for “Operation Christmas Child.” As part of the ministry, Royal Redeemer students and congregation members fill pre-printed shoe boxes with special toys and personal care items for children in third-world countries. A personal note of faith and hope is also added. Royal Redeemer is also a collection site for other area churches participating in the program.
Debbie Frank, a congregation member who heads up “Operation Christmas Child” alongside her husband, Dave, said every box is unique and sometimes even contain items like fishing and sewing kits so its recipients can develop a skillset and help provide for their families.
At the municipal level, the Office on Aging and Human Services has been busy signing up families for the holiday food and Adopt-a-Family programs, said Outreach Specialist Debra Burrows. The Office works closely with Royal Redeemer Lutheran Church and Saint Albert the Great to coordinate these programs. They begin matching families with adopters as early as October.
“I have families who have been ‘adopting’ since we first started this program. They enjoy it so much they get the other family members involved,” Burrows said via email. “I know they have as much fun shopping for the gifts as we do packing them up to be sent out.”
Burrows went on to say that every child was “adopted” for Christmas gifts thanks to the generosity of North Royalton residents, churches, schools and businesses.
“This year we had 88 children that gifts were provided for,” she said. “The families were thrilled to know that they will be able to provide a beautiful Christmas for their children. This year we even had five bicycles donated by a local business, which put them together themselves as a team-building project.”
The Office on Aging and Human Services is the local Salvation Army Service Unit, Burrows added, and they work with the Royalton Hills Lions Club to “ring the bell” during the holidays.
Those in civic service groups have also been busy spreading extra cheer.
Members of the Rotary Club assisted with the Holiday Lighting Parade and serve as Salvation Army red kettle bell ringers, noted Geneva Prince. The North Royalton Lions Club also “rings the bell” for Salvation Army collection kettles and financially assists the food bank at Royal Redeemer Lutheran Church, said President Jerry Volk.
“The Garden Club has always donated poinsettias to shut-ins, now we deliver to the various senior living centers and the Meals on Wheels. They deliver the plants along with the meal delivery. We donate food items and make a cash donation to the food bank,” President Pam Wetterau said via email. “The last two years we have given to the ‘Holiday Cheer’ program at the high school. Also, we decorate the Santa House and Judy’s Chocolate House on the City Green for the Lighting of the Green.”
The Garden Club also participates in “Wreaths Across America,” a nationwide program that places wreaths on the graves of veterans.
Contributing Writer