By ALVIN REINER
---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — The Secret Santa Society here is already hard at work.
Headed by Sarah Rice and Kaitlin Fielder, the program at Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School aims to provide joy to teens there who are not covered by other programs.
Helping out the real Santa Claus, of course.
“We have been running this program for two years,” said Rice, a high-school English teacher, in an email.
“Essentially, teachers and staff have picked up where Essex County Toys for Kids has left off for our student body.”
In the past, Toys for Kids supplied toys, games, clothing and other gifts to underprivileged kids in grades kindergarten through 12.
But two years ago, due to financial constraints, the organization could no longer provide for such a vast number of children. Efforts now only cover grades kindergarten through six.
“Through the Secret Santa Society, our faculty/staff have sponsored the remaining low-income students in grades seven through 12,” Rice said.
“We need help to sustain this important program.”
Last year, donations of almost $800 along with contributions of new gifts enhanced Christmas for more than 60 students, she said.
“We are giving to our community.”
And she hopes the community will pitch in as a collective “secret Santa” this year.
“With the financial situation, we find ourselves less able to support as much as we would like within the school,” Rice said. “Some staff members had been supporting five or six kids.
“There are over 50 students that we would like to help, which is a hefty percentage of the high-school population,” explained Fielder, a high-school science teacher.
Rice said the program is pretty pricey, (but) the benefit is obvious.
“The students wear the new clothing on a daily basis, and the backpacks provided carry their textbooks.
“We see school supplies being used in the classroom, and conversations at lunch are of their new toys,” she continued.
“No donation is too small.”
The program contacts the parents confidentially and offers gifts. The family may present the presents in any way they see fit. The students generally have no idea that they came from another source, though “if the parents share that information, it reinforces the notion that the school is a place where our students are loved, respected and cared for,” Rice said.
All donations go directly to the students, Fielder said. “We have set up a separate account (Secret Santa Society). Last year, the day before the winter break, we were still out buying things.”
It is all worthwhile, Rice said.
“Many families are brought to tears due to the gratitude they feel.”
Email Alvin Reiner:
firstname.lastname@example.orgHOW TO HELP For more information on the Secret Santa Society, contact Sara Rice at 873-6371, Ext. 220, or email her at email@example.com. To contribute, drop off new items at the Egglefield Ford dealerships in Elizabethtown and Ray Brook, and at both of George and Julie Huttig's Adirondack Auto dealerships in Elizabethtown. To make a monetary donation, mail or hand deliver checks payable to Secret Santa Society to Laurie Cutting at ELCS, Court Street, Elizabethtown, NY 12932.