It starts with a letter home to the families on Colonial School District's free and reduced lunch list, asking parents to identify three specific gifts for each child, newborn to age 14. What happens next is full community effort to come together and make sure that the wishes are met for more than 400 children.
"It's amazing what people do in our District for our families," said Ellen Reilly, Colonial School District's Home/School Visitor who coordinates the effort. "It's crazy, but it's worth it. You get to see the good that people do."
Connecting families with donors
Once the requests come in to Ms. Reilly's office, the names and gift requests are put on a spreadsheet and matched with donors. Colonial's schools and employees, local businesses, churches, and community groups "adopt" families from the list and purchase the presents. The gifts range from clothes and shoes to toys and even tablets and bicycles.
"It's important that we follow their lists," said Ms. Reilly. "They see what the other students at school have and want the same things. So if someone asks for size 8 Uggs, we buy them size 8 Uggs."
The District runs the program along with the Colonial Neighborhood Council, the Conshohocken Branch of the Salvation Army, St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Conshohocken and local police departments. In addition to picking up the presents purchased for their families, parents can also take home wrapping paper, a bag of food or gift cards to the grocery store and winter coats for their children.
A long history of generosity in the Colonial Community
More than 200 families benefit from the program annually, and the community has supported the program for more than 25 years.
"It was already happening when I started working in Colonial," said Ms. Reilly. "It's gotten bigger and better each year."
Thank you to everyone in the Colonial Community — students, staff, individuals, companies, churches and community partners — who help make the holidays brighter for Colonial families!