On Friday, Santa Claus came early to Delaware as students in the Hayes High School Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) class donated Christmas gifts to a local family.
Mark Thomas, who teaches the JAG class, said the tradition started more than 18 years ago when he and now-retired teacher Ron Rider were speaking with students about community service opportunities.
“They said, ‘Why don’t we adopt a family for Christmas?’ We’ve been adopting a local family every year (since),” Thomas said.
When it comes to selecting a family, Thomas said the class works with a different elementary school principal each year. In order to purchase the gifts — clothes, jackets, toys and stocking stuffers — students sold candy, water and soda out of the classroom and at school events.
“JAG is a student-led organization,” Thomas said. “It’s really cool that the students get joy and happiness for doing this for a family. It’s pretty cool that teenagers want to help local families in our community. It brings joy to (me, too.)”
Sahvanna Macpherson, a senior in the class, said she enjoyed shopping for the girl in the family.
“I like the fact that we’re able to help a family in need,” she said. “It was nice to go shopping for a little girl because I haven’t been little girl shopping in forever. It was kinda cute to see things that I wanted when I was little and now we’re giving it to somebody else.”
Macpherson added she also enjoyed taking part in the project with her classmates.
“It’s fun, and in our class, we have a really good environment,” Macpherson said. “We vibe together and get things done. It’s a really good thing that we’re doing.”
Gage Pounds, a fellow senior, said he felt good about helping a local family.
“I like that we got to pick the family that needed help and get to go out and bond with our classmates and help out in our community,” he said. “I went shopping with the class, and the guys went shopping for the boys. I had a lot of fun. We had to keep track of how much we were spending and make sure it was fair for the children.”
Pounds added he found it very easy to shop for the boy in the family.
“I have a little brother, and my little brother pretty much likes the same things we went shopping for,” Pounds said. “Being able to relate to the kid and know what he wanted … I loved doing it. It brings people together and makes for happy times.”
Thomas said he expects the tradition to continue in the class.
“I get great satisfaction from seeing the smiles on their faces when they wrap the presents and when we deliver the presents,” Thomas said. “I’m proud of being in charge of the JAG program at Hayes High School.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.