AP families will receive toy boxes at Christmas

Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK — A donation program held at Allen Park High School ensures that needy families will get a Christmas this year.

The Toy Box campaign is wrapping up this week at the school, but APHS Principal Janet Wasko said staff from the school district worked together to collect toys, blankets and money to support local families during the Christmas season. Wasko said they currently have 19 families and about 40 children who will receive a toy box through the program and other needed assistance.

“Many of these parents have taken extended family members into their home,” Wasko said. “They deserve the same level of help and care they’re giving others.

“People are starting to come forward to nominate families that deserve this opportunity. The whole school, as well as the rest of the school district, has become wrapped up in this and everyone is coming together in a citywide effort to help out.”

Jennette McDonald, a counselor at the school and the coordinator of the campaign, said they wanted to ensure kids can have a Christmas because some families are struggling financially and cannot afford to do the extra things that come with the season.

“We heard one story about a family that didn’t have a Christmas tree last year and another story where a family couldn’t have a Christmas at all, so we wanted to do something to help these families out,” McDonald said. “So, our goal became making sure that kids, who wouldn’t ordinarily get the experience, have a Christmas this year.”

Just a few years ago, APHS just took donations for Toys for Tots, Wasko said, but this year they began the Toy Box campaign to help out the local families. Woodworking students created 50 wooden toy boxes that will be filled with new, unwrapped toys.

This is the second year APHS Woodworking Teacher Jeff Goulasarian’s students built toy boxes to fill with toys for children to be given to area families. Last year, they built 25 toy boxes and 25 bookshelves, filled them with books, games and toys, then gave them out over the holiday break to families in need in Allen Park.

“The concerted goal is to fill the lives of children with Christmas spirit, no matter what their circumstance is,” Goulasarian said. “We started doing the toy boxes last year and it ended up being a super-cool thing.”

Goulasarian and his students used to make wooden cars and trucks to pass out to local children, but a few years ago one of the wood suppliers asked him to start making bookshelves. McDonald said Goulasarian was “really bummed out” about the change because he couldn’t see how a child would want an empty bookshelf for Christmas.

McDonald said they came up with the idea to fill the bookshelves with donated books, games and teddy bears then gift wrap them before they went out to the children. They wanted to build upon the success of the program last year, McDonald said, and decided to focus on creating and filling the toy boxes.

The APHS Counseling Department donated blankets to the program, Wasko said, while the district’s food service staff donated at least $100 to the campaign. She said the custodial staff donated $250 and the Art Department raised $250 through a pottery project and soup dinner.

The school also received about $400 from fundraising at the Allen Park Arts & Crafts Street Fair. Parents and students have dropped off unwrapped presents at the schools, Wasko said, and one school received two $100 Meijer gift cards as an anonymous donation.

Lindemann Elementary School staff made and donated 50 blankets and scarves for those in need, Wasko said, and Bennie Elementary School donated mittens, scarves and 34 Barnes and Noble gift cards to accompany the toy boxes.

Wasko said the high school National Honor Society, the varsity and junior varsity wrestling and girls basketball teams, and seven staff members have volunteered to adopt some of the families.

Last week, volunteers made about $150 scooping ice cream for donations at Allen Park Daily Scoop, 8305 Allen Road. Tuesday, the high school held a Toy Box Holiday Party which required a donation of an unwrapped toy, children’s book, or arts and crafts item to be placed in the toy boxes.

The district has raised more than $3,000 to fund the campaign, Wasko said, and the school’s conference room is full of donated toys, games, and books to fill the donated toy boxes.

High school students and staff have volunteered to pack the four-feet-wide and two-and-a-half-feet-tall toy boxes once they receive the last of their donations.

Supt. John Sturock said the focus of the program was to increase awareness and support of the needs of other in the community.

“The support from the school staff has been tremendous,” Sturock said. “As we prepare to celebrate with famsily and friends this holiday season, I am so very proud of the collaborative initiative among Allen Park schools’ staff to help those in need right in our very own community.”

Anyone who would like to donate or recommend a family for the program can contact Wasko at 313-827-1000.

(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at ggoodwin@bewickpublications.com.)