Friendship Shoeboxes offer small presents and hope
Students lined the hallway nearly the entire length of Boyce Middle School. At one end of the school, an entire classroom wall was filled from floor to ceiling with shoeboxes wrapped with an assortment of colorful holiday paper. At the other end, an empty box truck was located just outside the door soon to be filled with hundreds of boxes and so much more.
One-by-one the boxes left the classroom through the Friendship Shoebox Chain – passing from one student to the next down the hall, out the door and into the delivery truck. Some students sang holiday songs; others were too intent as the packages came quickly, one after the other; but all could not help but smile knowing they were making a difference.
Boyce Middle School’s 628 students participated in the Friendship Shoebox project, which was organized by school counselors Amy Antonio and Vicki Cayuela. The school has participated in this project for more than 20 years.
Each student was asked to fill a shoebox with small gifts to brighten the holidays for another child. Suggestions included small toys or games, books or activities, personal hygiene items, school and craft supplies, and a treat such as gum, lollipops or candy. The boxes are being delivered to children in two foster care programs and at a soup kitchen in Washington County.
“Students love this project! Yes, it would be easier to have parents wrap shoeboxes at home. It would be easier to just load a dolly with the shoeboxes and load them on the truck ourselves. However, allowing the students to take part in the wrapping and loading is so important,” Mrs. Antonio said. “It allows the students to be involved in every aspect of the program...the shopping, the wrapping, the loading and for 12 lucky students...the delivering! It leaves a lasting impact on the students.”
Boyce sixth grader Connor Hyatt filled his box with small toys, a hat and Pokemon cards. “I felt like I was really helping someone,” he said. “I picked out things that I would like.”
For sixth grader Maria Funaro, the best part was wrapping the presents. “I wrapped my box in snowman wrapping paper and inside we put a sweatshirt, some bubbles and some candy,” Maria said. “I helped my friend wrap her box and we put in a bunch of coloring supplies, crafts and a hairbrush.”
Several workers from NHS Human Services, one of the Washington County foster care programs receiving the Friendship Shoeboxes, were on-hand to supervise as the students loaded the truck.
“This project is so important because this might be the only present that some children are getting this year,” Erin Conrad, a NHS representative, said. “And, projects like this help to teach students the importance of giving back to the community.”
Among the contents in Kylie Mosler’s shoebox were mittens, candy and pencils. Although she enjoyed filling and wrapping her box, she appreciated knowing that she was helping others. “We get to help people that don’t get stuff for Christmas,” Kylie said. “I learned that we are lucky because we get stuff and some people just don’t get anything.”
It is the season of giving and these Boyce Middle School students are making their mark in meaningful ways.
“I like knowing that I helped other people that might not have gotten a present,” sixth-grader John Scherer, said. “It helps kids who are less fortunate and helps others feel good by helping others.”