Donations sought to brighten Cottonwood High students’ holidaysNov 01, 2022 08:20PM ● By Julie Slama
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
When Black Friday comes around, consider picking up some extra board games, art kits, basketballs, curling irons, socks and stocking stuffers for Cottonwood High School’s neighborhood day of service.
On Dec. 10 morning, between 9 a.m. and noon, Cottonwood PTA will accept donations for the school’s Christmas Extravaganza, which provides items for students to give to family members, said Jennifer Young, who is on the Cottonwood PTA planning committee. Donations can be dropped off at Cottonwood High, 5715 S. 1300 East.
“The students just love this,” she said. “They look forward to it. They come and the thing is they get to go shopping. We have all the donations set up, so they pick out things for their family. It’s so neat to see how much they’re excited to be able to give gifts to their families. We open it up to any student and many of them are refugees and came here with nothing so getting a fuzzy pair of socks or a fleece blanket means the world to them. The students can only go through all the tables once, but last year one boy saw a doll stroller for his sister, and he pretty much flew past a few of the tables because he had his eye on that for her. It's emotional to watch these kids. This is their only opportunity for many of these kids to do anything for their families.”
After the PTA gathers the donations, they set up tables in the lunchroom with items so students can pick up items at a set time on Dec. 13. Everything is free, but because of such demand, students may be limited on some items, such as one sports ball, she said.
“The sports balls are huge; the students usually pick those out for their siblings. They love picking out board games that the whole family could play together. We usually get a ton of games and they’re just grabbed up. It’s incredible. Blankets are huge. They love giving a new blanket at Christmastime. The students also love choosing socks for member in their family,” she said, adding that hats, mittens, scarves, lotion, nail polish and candles also are popular amongst students. “Every student gets a gift card. We get a lot of Walmart and Target gift cards that are donated, in $20 amounts.”
Monetary contributions also are accepted, and with the funds, items are purchased to fill in the gaps of donations, Young said.
Last year, the Extravaganza benefitted 761 of Cottonwood’s 1,600 students.
“We really want to try and reach out to the whole community for more donations because we have an even greater demand,” she said. “We ask for everything to be new because these are gifts for their families and everything in their life is always gently used or secondhand. This is the one time of the year they get new items, which is amazing.”
While this is Young’s fourth year helping with the event, she said it has been going longer than that. At that time, the PTA was able to help about 100 students.
Many of the students who pick items at the Extravaganza also are the ones who regularly use the school’s pantry. Young estimates it serves about 150 students every Monday and Thursday it’s open.
The pantry opened in January 2017 when there was a realization that students were too hungry to focus on their homework during an after-school tutoring program.
“We realized many of these kids were only eating what food they got at the school, so we decided to start the pantry,” she said, adding that more than 50% of the student body qualifies for free or reduced lunch. “There’s a definite need. A lot of our students are cooking for younger siblings because parents are working and aren't home, so they come twice a week after school to get anything they want.”
Donations for both the Extravaganza and pantry come from families and neighbors as well as members of St. Vincent de Paul Parish and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“We love that this is a huge community event, people helping other people, giving so these students can have a great Christmas, too,” Young said. “Seeing these kids be so excited, it makes it the ‘funnest’ day of the whole school year. The Christmas Extravaganza really is just an amazing event to be a part of and to witness.”