Donation boosts Shoebox Santa program

Students wearing masks look at a box

Herkimer High School students will unwrap some extra special holiday cheer this year thanks to a special donation from the Compassion Coalition.

Thousands of dollars’ worth of Bombas sweatshirts and socks, Funko Pop toys and figures, snacks, lip balm and reusable cups were among the items donated by the Utica-based nonprofit, according to Rachel Daughtry, director of agency relations. The donations join other goodies collected by the Student Council, National Honor Society and National Junior Honor Society for distribution through the high school’s annual Shoebox Santa program.

Students collect donations from local businesses to put together mini care packages for their classmates, and many other people within the school help out to get the boxes holiday-ready.

“It’s just a way to give kids a little something extra around the holidays,” explained Brooke Jones, who helps oversee Shoebox Santa along with Caroline Lampert, Laura Scalise and Susan Hayes-Manning.

“They really come together, every single year,” she said, adding, “And if we ever need wrapping paper or tape or anything like that, I’ll have 10 teachers at my door offering to help.”

Three students stand near a tall stack of boxes. One is giving the thumbs-up

While the boxes are being organized and packed up, students and teachers start assembling a list of who will receive the goodies. Close to 200 boxes will be distributed to students before the winter break.

“We try to cast a really wide net,” Mrs. Jones explained, noting that any student can nominate a friend or classmate to receive one of the boxes. “It’s really meant for anyone — it’s not just based on income or need. It’s for anyone who could use a little extra holiday cheer, so we try to do as many as we can every year.”

And Rachel Daughtry of the Compassion Coalition said her organization always tries to help out with the effort.

“I went to Herkimer High School, so we try to help out as much as possible,” she explained, adding, “I asked Brooke for a wish list of items, and we just kind of ran with it.”

The nonprofit works with local and national companies to obtain donations and distribute them throughout the region. Education is one area of focus, with the Compassion Coalition’s Teacher Free Store offering local teachers a place to obtain school supplies at no cost. The organization has donated to Herkimer CSD before, including a donation of school supplies in December 2019 valued at $19,000.

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