During this season of giving, students learn firsthand the benefits of helping others.
From elementary through high schools, adult volunteers and young people are collecting items to help families on tight budgets celebrate the holidays.
"It's just a nice feeling of giving back to the community that always supports us," said Scott Kornfield, junior class president and one of the organizers of the holiday collections at Kenai Central High School.
"It's a nice feeling during the holidays."
The projects generate more than warm feelings, however.
"They are very significant for a number of reasons," said Sandy Dallmann, executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank.
The food bank gets a significant portion of its food this time of year from the school projects, plus other items such as infant supplies. The high schools are sophisticated at piling up donations, sending over what she called "barrels" of food.
For example, after a Thanksgiving competition among classes and between schools, Skyview High School near Soldotna turned in 5,774 items.
This also is a popular time of year for teachers to bring younger students on field trips to the food bank. They tour the facility and sometimes stay for lunch in the soup kitchen, she said.
The school charities are a two-fold opportunity. They inform teachers and parents about the food bank and its mission, but they also plant the seeds of awareness and community involvement in the next generation. The donors may be young, but they are vital, Dallmann said.
"My hope is they can truly understand how important they are to the food bank. They play a very important part in collecting food for the poor people here," she said.
The projects can be a lot of extra work during a hectic time of year.
Kimb Remsen is a parent volunteer who has been coordinating the Sears-Mountain View-Kenai Middle School Christmas Drive for the past seven years. She and three other parents shopped until midnight last weekend and plan to do the same Saturday to finish their purchases for the project.
The hassle is worth it, she said.
"It is just so rewarding," she said. "We have a lot of fun together as a group, too."
Some schools completed their charity projects before Thanksgiving.
But anyone can still pitch in and help. Other schools are collecting food, toys, clothing and money for the Christmas season. People can stop by a neighborhood school and contribute.
The following are some charity projects now available through central peninsula schools:
n The Sears-Mountain View-Kenai Middle School Christmas Drive -- In its 19th year, this project puts together package gifts for poor families of children at the schools. In an average year it helps 65 to 70 families.
"We'd like each kid to have two new toys, a new outfit, Christmas dinner for the family and, if they need them, new winter clothes," Remsen said.
Parent volunteers run all aspects, from collecting donations to distributing to the families. It is independent of other charity drives but compares lists with them to avoid duplication.
Much of the support is from businesses, but individuals are encouraged to drop off food, toys and clothing at any of the participating schools. Money is also welcome for use in buying new items to complete the packages. Donations are due Friday.
n Share the Giving at Sterling Elementary -- The school is working with churches and the Sterling Senior Center on the charity project that has been going on for at least 15 years. Last year it distributed 50 baskets of food and gifts.
"Everything we collect goes to Sterling families only," said Barb Eastham, the school secretary and a project organizer.
People are invited to bring nonperishable foods and gift items in mint condition to the school. Monetary donations are welcome. The deadline is Dec. 15.
The money will be passed to Bob Reasner, pastor of the Abundant Life Assembly of God in Sterling, who handles the purchasing and the distribution of the completed baskets.
n Christmas Kindness program at Redoubt Elementary -- The food drive at the Soldotna school has been extended through Friday. Students are bringing in specific items children can prepare at home. Other donors should bring cans and other nonperishable items to the school office. Food will be delivered by the school.
The school also has an angel tree and a stocking tree in the foyer. The PTA has collected names of school families needing help. Shopping hints are listed on the tree for volunteers to take along for buying gifts such as toys and clothing. Collect yours by Friday. Gifts will be distributed next week.
The school expects to assist about 10 families this year, said school secretary Elena Horton.
n Christmas drive at KCHS -- The school held a Thanksgiv-ing food drive but now has three projects going for Christmas collections.
The angel tree has information about the Christmas wishes of poor children in the community. Volunteers can claim one and shop for the child featured.
The student council is sponsoring the Christmas food drive, with the goal of thousands of cans. It ends Friday. The school also is collecting money, which will be used to purchase other food items. The food will be forwarded to the food bank for distribution.
The Interact Club is sponsoring a clothing drive as well.
"Any size, shape, color or whatever is welcome," said Wally Ward, the student council liaison to the KCHS Site-Base Council. "They will be distributed to children from infants to teens."
n Sharing the Spirit Star Style at Soldotna High -- Students working on senior community service projects are collecting toys, money and winter clothing for children. New toys, coats and other outdoor winter clothing can be dropped off through Tuesday at the collection bin in the school commons. The students are working with Sharing the Spirit, which will handle distribution.
n Food drive and angel tree at Soldotna Middle -- Social studies classes are organizing gifts for five school families. The school is accepting quality clothing, toys and some food. Bring items to the counselors' office. The deadline is Friday.
n Tustumena Elementary -- The school in Kasilof is collecting nonperishable food items for The Salvation Army. The school gathers these items under the tree in the main hallway. The Salvation Army folks will come Dec. 14 to collect the food.
n Nikiski Middle-Senior High School -- The school is helping with the Nikiski Noel Tree and the Tesoro coats program. For details, call the school at 776-3456.
n North Star Elementary -- The school is working with the Nikiski Neighbors Committee to help Nikiski families. Confiden-tial applications are available in the magazine rack outside the office. The committee has asked the school to collect gift wrapping materials: paper, bows and scotch tape. Bring donations to the school office.
n Kalifornsky Beach Elementary -- Mrs. Tobin's fourth-grade class is coordinating a special task for the food bank. The Soldotna students are collecting soap, paper products, toothpaste and other nonfood items. For more information, call the school at 262-1463.
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