Holladay students ‘make kindness loud’ for the holidays
Dec 19, 2019 10:58AM
● By Heather Lawrence
Though it looks overwhelming, an army of over 500 volunteers made sure the projects at Evening of Service got finished. (Heather Lawrence/City Journals)
By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]
Students across Holladay served their community in December. Olympus High’s Friend-2-Friend club organized a community event and mobilized over 500 volunteers. Churchill Jr. High’s choir sang to seniors at a rest home. With acts big and small, the schools spread the holiday spirit.
Olympus sophomore Neve Pratt is on the junior board of the Friend-2-Friend club. The community nonprofit merged with the school club and has grown immensely. “There are 10 students on the junior board, and 270 students in the club,” Pratt said.
Pratt carried her camera around her neck on Dec. 2 at Friend-2-Friend’s Evening of Service at Olympus High. “I’m going to take photos and help with projects. I’m working at the Santa Sacks table — we’ll assemble gift bags for families,” Pratt said.
Evening of Service has become a tradition. This is the third year it’s been done on this level. Its theme is “Make kindness loud.” But it’s much more than an evening. “We’ve been meeting and collecting donations for months. On Nov. 23 we got together to organize everything for this work day. It was really fun,” Pratt said.
The amassed donated materials took up the entire commons/lunchroom area of Olympus High. Jen Wunderli is the head of Friend-2-Friend. She said the idea started with teaching her young kids to serve when they were at Cottonwood Elementary. Now her daughter Kate is at Olympus and part of the club.
“I started it as a small service project when my kids were little. Over the past 20 years, it’s grown as they’ve grown. Now it is a nonprofit and a club at school,” Wunderli said.
Organization was essential for the Evening of Service. All volunteers checked in and got a name tag. Tables were set up with all the materials needed to assemble certain projects. Balloons showed people what project was happening there. A student from the club was at each table to take charge and direct work.
“We have over 25 projects going on here tonight. And we want the whole family to get involved. Even small children — we have boxes for the Utah Food Bank that they can color with holiday greetings,” Wunderli said.
Sharon Bain is a Holladay resident and Friend-2-Friend board member. “Jen has worked so hard to organize this night. I’m in charge of putting together stenciled pillowcases and a teddy bear. We’re donating them to a short-term rehab and memory care facility,” Bain said.
“It’s been really fun to work on gathering the supplies. Tonight, we get to see it all come together. And everyone in the community can get involved. It’s part of our ‘friendships through service’ motto,” Pratt said.
Pratt said service like this helps students who are earning service hours for scout projects or to go on humanitarian trips. But some just come because they want to serve.
“There has been a lot of growth in the numbers of our club. I like that it’s not exclusive. Everyone is welcome,” Pratt said. Student club members were easily identified by their white long-sleeved shirts.
Donations for the Evening of Service came from fundraisers and sponsors. Specific products were donated, but also money. Pratt said all the money donated was used to buy the needed supplies.
The Evening of Service is Pratt’s second favorite part of being in the club: her favorite is delivering the projects.
“Last year I got to deliver some of the projects. Seeing or hearing about the impact we’ve made is great. Some kids in our community don’t realize how fortunate we are; this puts it all in perspective,” Pratt said.
Evening of Service was a party atmosphere: Santa and Mrs. Claus made an appearance. Instead of bringing their naughty and nice list, they sat in front of an oversized list that cascaded down the commons stairs. On it were ideas of how to serve. Background music played and food vendors came with dinner. The Magna Elementary School choir sang, directed by Robyn Walsh.
Other Holladay schools served with time and funds. Wasatch Waldorf Charter School students sang to residents at a local assisted living facility. Wasatch Jr. High sold candy-grams and donated the money collected to Quarters for Christmas. Churchill Jr. High chorus sang at a nursing home and also collected blankets for the women’s shelter.
Some schools wanted to make sure people in their community benefited directly from their service. Olympus Jr. High came up with their own program, Change for Children. “We’re right in the middle of it, and it’s going really well,” said Principal’s Secretary Marguerita Davilla-Telck in December.
“Our seventh period classes all compete to see which class donates the most. The winning class will get a reward — a doughnut party. But everything we collect goes to the Granite Education Foundation, so it goes right back to serve needs in our district. They provide Santa Sacks at Christmas, glasses for students who can’t afford them or food pantries within our district,” Davilla-Telck said.
“The students learn service and how to be compassionate. It’s a really good thing and the students love it. We do lots of good things that help our own,” Davilla-Telck said.
Bonneville Jr. High’s Viking Tree project was even more localized. “Counselors Stacey Wood and Sarah Jensen organized the project. We made paper ornaments that listed things for families in need within our school. It was presents, clothing, food — whatever was needed,” said an office worker.
Students and parents turned in the ornaments with the requested items or cash to the counseling center. Whatever wasn’t used for the families was donated to the Cottonwood High pantry. The office said this is the first year all the ornaments were taken. Counselors wrapped and delivered the items.
Oakwood Elementary made the Cottonwood Pantry their sole project this holiday season. “We collected mittens, scarves, hats and socks for the kids at Cottonwood High School. They have so many refugee families. They really rely on the pantry,” said Debbie Larsen, an office secretary at Oakwood.
Larsen, who the kids at Oakwood call “Grandma Debbie,” said she loves the students at her school and is impressed by how willing they are to give. “They’re very generous. This is the first year we’ve worked with the pantry for our project. We also gave food donations, things like mac and cheese and cereal because so many of the students get their meals there. Oakwood feeds into Cottonwood High, so we’re really taking care of our own community,” Larsen said.
Terri Roylance is the principal at Cottonwood High. She said Cottonwood relies heavily on their pantry for many things, not just food. “We have school supplies, hygiene kits and coats in addition to food.”
Cottonwood High students come from five different neighborhoods in Salt Lake and Holladay. Many are refugee or immigrant families trying to survive in Salt Lake and navigate the education system.
“I’m so appreciative of the donations from our neighboring schools. The pantry is completely run by the community to serve the needs of our students. It’s run by parents and community volunteers,” Roylance said.
Roylance is not surprised they’ve had so many donations. “When our volunteers get together and they need to make something happen, they are a force to be reckoned with! Their use of social media for organizing puts teenage girls to shame,” Roylance said.
Principal Steve Perschon of Olympus High encouraged service efforts. Perschon said school-run clubs like Friend-2-Friend and the Viking Tree at Bonneville aren’t just good for the recipients; they are a key part of a student’s education.
“The Friend-2-Friend club at our school promotes [service]. They do it in such a way that it gives all our community a chance to come together and help other people. A lot of kids are involved from the high school and the junior highs,” Perschon said.
Perschon said he is impressed by the students who choose to serve. “Anything you can do to serve is awesome. One of the key principles we hope students take away from their education is helping their fellow men,” Perschon said.