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Westview's elves deliver 615 surprises for Vose students

by: Jaime Valdez, Westview’s Ashley Williams and Delaney Burns help haul in bags filled with toys last week.

After raiding green felt costumes from Westview High School's theater department on Friday, 10 Westview elves made their way over to Vose Elementary School.

The students, members of the school's leadership class, were on hand to oversee the more than 600 donated presents purchased by Westview students as part of the school's annual Holiday Sharing program.

In the Vose parking lot, volunteers pulled out large garbage sacks filled with the gifts, each wrapped with specific holiday paper to indicate the grade level that would receive them. A large overstuffed penguin poked out from one of the bags.

'This was a whole school effort,' said Nicole Chambers, a Westview science teacher and activities director who helped coordinate the effort. 'This is the first time we've done anything on this scale.'

While Westview students distributed gifts to five Vose families last year, they decided to up the ante this year.

'Instead of helping 20 to 25 people, we decided to help 600,' said Chambers.

Vose was selected based on the number of students (82 percent), who are on free or reduced lunches, an indication of a school that has students who are in need of extra help.

This year's Holiday Sharing program began with the appearance of five 'Giving Trees,' dispersed throughout the school containing suggested toys for students to purchase.

Chambers said being able to draw from a high school student population of 2,700 ensured that numerous gifts would be returned for the ambitious project.

'I thought if anyone is going to make it happen, it's going to be Westview,' said Chambers.

Major undertaking

At Vose, students recently wrote letters to Santa as part of a literacy project.

'It's great. It's wonderful,' said Yolanda Yglecias, a Vose secretary and head of the school's Parent Teacher Organization as she watched the gifts being unloaded. 'The kids will be very excited.'

As the conspicuous elves left Westview on Friday, at least one teacher asked where the students were headed and what they were up to.

'She said, 'Do you take money?' and I said 'yes' and she gave us $20.'

Students were told to keep their gifts in the $10 to $20 price range. What they returned with were loads of backpacks, Barbie dolls, Tonka trucks, Legos, scarves and hats, sports stuff and action figures.

Chambers said one student came in with an entire paycheck from work to help purchase gifts.

'We ended up getting 582 presents and we needed 615,' said Samatha McCormack, the senior who coordinated the project as part of her student government class. That didn't prove to be a problem, however, as student leaders simply purchased additional presents through money collected through the Holiday Sharing program.

Still, wrapping the presents proved a major undertaking.

'We did it all this week,' said McCormack. 'We had 30 classrooms to help us wrap.'

Karen Murphy, a Vose literacy coach and English Language Learner teacher, said students at the elementary school didn't know about the presents and she can't recall anything ever being done for Vose students on this scale.

'We're all very surprised and shocked,' she said.

Today (Thursday) elves from Whitford Middle School and Oregon Episcopal School were expected to distribute the presents. Still, the costumed Westview students didn't get dressed up for nothing and met with students in several classrooms and the cafeteria, drawing more than a few surprised smiles.

Meanwhile Westview students have been involved with other holiday giving projects as well.

On Dec. 1, students took William Walker Elementary School students to Target where they purchased presents for them as part of the school's Target Kids program.

Also, students in one of Westview math teacher Sandy Douglas' classes raised $3,400 - money used to purchase presents for the KATU Toy Drive.