By JAYMIE L. WHITE
Special to the Appalachian
STEPHENVILLE – The holiday season, while being a wonderful time of the year, can also cause extra strain for some families. A collaborative fundraiser between the student council, Humanitarian Club, Community Youth Network (CYN) and the staff at Stephenville High School aims to help with the added burden.
Julia Strickland, one of the organizers, said they work together in order to sponsor families in need at Christmas, something they have been doing for the last seven years at the high school.
“Christmas is stressful and difficult for many families in our community, and with the help of our guidance counsellor we are able to identify families that could use some extra love. We provide groceries, as much as we can, as well as the gifts that Santa can't bring for each child in the family,” said Strickland. “We also, where possible, try to give to the parents. The number of families sponsored depends on the amount of money raised. Every penny goes back.”
Strickland said Christmas is the time of year where people should be able to enjoy their time with family and friends.
“I can't imagine not being able to do that, so taking that stress away,and bringing love and joy to those families is important,” said Strickland. “Many of us take food for granted, but there are many in our community who struggle to provide, so assisting not just the families but also the food bank has always been a priority for our school.”
Strickland said the success of the fundraisers over the years has been thanks to the hard work of everyone involved.
“Every year we have been able to sponsor a minimum of two families, up to a maximum of four. It takes a village and here at Stephenville High we have an amazing village."
This year's fundraiser was a little different because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“Typically we gather all of our dry goods through Halloween for Hunger and all funds are raised by the student councils' initiatives: bake sales, dances and some solicitation of local businesses, who are always supportive,” said Strickland. “Because of the restrictions in place, we were unable to have our two dances, which typically raises between $600-800, so we went with this fundraiser because it had been successful for other local schools and the fact that it gives back to our community.”
The most recent fundraiser between these groups, Recipe in a Jar, took place from November 4 to 15 and went through Maritime Fundraising. The concept is a jar of ingredients for $12.99 where $5 goes to the school and one meal is donated to the local food bank.
Even though the current fundraiser has come to an end, people are still able to participate and donate.
“The school will collect donations of food, monetary donations, or gifts right up until the last minute, the last day of school,” said Strickland. “People can contact Stephenville High directly or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
The groups will be planning other initiatives over the holidays as well.
“It is always ongoing for the student council, raising money in the spring to carry over to the next year and then build on that in the fall. It has become our biggest venture each year,” said Strickland.
The fundraiser goal is always aimed around $2,000, but there were adjustments this year.
“This year we were unable to do Halloween for Hunger the way we normally do, so we will be buying more food than normal. So we will aim higher,” said Strickland. “We also have no banked money as our humanitarian club and student council have been shut down for almost two years, so this year we need community support more than ever.”
Strickland said that getting the help they need has never been an issue.
“Our community support has always been excellent – from businesses to non-profit, to the individual members of the community and our student body. I expect we will see much the same this year,” said Strickland. “We have not solicited any business donations yet, but will be doing so in the near future. We are seeing fewer individuals involved in extracurricular activities, not just at our school or in our community, but also in our province and country. That does make it difficult for campaigns like these, which is why we have been spamming social media. “
Strickland hopes more will become inspired and involved.
“Whether you donate to an initiative like ours or you sponsor a family on your own or with a group of friends, please remember what Christmas is actually about,” said Strickland. “Look for a senior in need or a family down the street, or reach out to your local church, food bank, school, or Lions club. There are many heartwarming initiatives you can get involved with.”