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The gift that keeps on giving

The glow of red and green Christmas lights are gone and the cheery “ho-ho-ho’s” have long since disappeared as another holiday season concluded. While many spend the following weeks returning gifts and taking down stockings, a group of Brainerd High School seniors are still reflecting on their acts of kindness this holiday season; the gift that keeps on giving.

This past holiday season, Brainerd’s 2012 senior class donated presents to six area families in hopes of spreading true Christmas cheer.

“This experience for me has been one of the most powerful things I’ve done so far,” said senior class president, Maren Goff. “To be able to help these families out so much, especially in our own community is something that I will never forget. Just looking at the list of some of the things that these families needed and going shopping for even just the necessities was an amazing and eye-opening experience not just for me, but I think our entire class as well.”

Goff, along with 30 of her classmates in the senior class cabinet and a $2,000 budget from their class funds (money earned through various events since freshman year) connected with area elementary schools for a list of potential families in need. Keeping names anonymous, the cabinet received the family’s size, wish list and ages of kids in order to begin creating “Santa’s Christmas List”. More than just toys and goodies, the seniors purchased full outfits for each family member, food and household supplies and one “fun present” for each person.

“I think the best part about this project is that it’s giving these families more than just toys, it’s giving them everyday things that they simply cannot afford,” said senior adviser, Ann Stenglein. “I think that was the biggest eye-opener for these kids, the fact that it’s even those little things they take for granted that are hard to come by for some.”

Like many parents, the seniors spent the month of December scouring stores for the perfect gifts, a task Groff admits was “really kind of stressful, but worth it in the end.” Once the shopping was finished, the entire group gathered together to wrap and prepare presents for delivery at the schools, which Groff and classmates Jaci Bock and Paige Lothert agreed was the best part of the whole process.

“I think the opportunity to deliver these presents, knowing that we helped them out so much, was great,” grinned Bock. “Just to realize and help those who are not as fortunate as I am, or really we are, and knowing that we helped give them a great Christmas like we all tend to have is something that I am so thankful to have been a part of.”

Lothert couldn’t agree more.

“I feel like it was really rewarding knowing that I am going something for other families in a community that I have been a part of for so long,” she said. “You feel like you’re doing something good and makes you remember how grateful we all are during the holidays.”

And the area families were equally as grateful of the kindness spread by the senior class.

“I spoke with one family who said, ‘I had no clue that you guys were going to do this much for us, we didn’t even fathom it,’ and she was so grateful to all that these kids had done,” said Stenglein. “I mean they are 18-year-olds. At that age a lot of them have the idea that they can do anything and handle anything, but for them to come together and do something like this, and see that poverty is real and something that kids have to deal with whether they are 18 or seven, it makes you think. A lot of kids don’t see that, but our kids did and were able to do something about it.”

The senior classmates weren’t the only ones to do something to help others this past holiday season. 14 other Brainerd schools, classes and clubs came together to help a variety of people and organizations in the community, including food drives, donations and gifts.

JESSI PIERCE may be reached at 855-5859.