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Area Students and Schools Make Holidays Brighter for Many Families

Sparta’s Angel Tree & Toys-for-Tots Programs Ensure Area Families have Merry Christmas
SPARTA AREA SCHOOLS – by Adrian Hirsch

Along with quality family time, the holiday season offers a way for Sparta Area Schools students to give back and engage with their community. Largely organized by the high school’s student council and National Honor Society (NHS) members, the district prides itself in its ability to provide gifts and goods for those in need through the Toys-for-Tots and Angel Tree initiatives, said Sparta High School Principal Matt Spenser.

“Sparta is a powerhouse for giving,” said Spenser. “We start by identifying students in our community that would go without anything for Christmas,” he said, explaining that these families receive the Angel Tree gifts. The families are invited to request needed supplies, or special toys.

While Toys-for-Tots relies primarily on donated gifts, Sparta’s Angel Tree program relies on a variety of fundraiser events organized by Sparta’s NHS students. The most recent was Little Spartans Night, organized and chaperoned by NHS students, where 300-400 area children are welcomed into the high school for games and activities. This event frees parents for a “date night” or perhaps Santa duty said Spenser.

Spenser said he always looks forward to the Angel Tree shopping night. Parents and community members are given 3 x 5 index cards with a list of the requested supplies and are turned loose in Meijer, which dedicates a checkout lane for use by the Angel Tree shoppers. The result is a win-win. Students get what they need while parents get to see first hand the product of their fundraising efforts.

“It is a great way to encourage parents to get involved with the schools,” said Spenser. After all the gifts are collected, students play the elves and wrap them during class.


Students Collect Coins for Community in Annual Christmas Fundraiser 

Northview High School students put the Christmas spirit to work by raising money for needy families. Led by the Student Council and National Honor Society, students collected almost $3,000 in coins over two weeks in the school’s annual Operation Christmas.

Third-hour classrooms conducted a “change war” to see who could raise the most money, with the top class winning a homemade breakfast courtesy of the Student Council. School faculty members Dion Charity and Julie Haveman identified families in need, and the funds provided gift cards for the families to buy items for Christmas.

Decorating, Selling Yuletide Ornaments Snowball to Record High Donation of $7,000-Plus

Eli decorated around 1,700 Christmas ornaments this yearKraft Middle School sixth-grader Eli Kersey squirts a glob of purple acrylic paint inside a globe-shaped Christmas ornament and twirls it around so it spreads all over the interior’s surface. Then he does it again with the colors green and blue.

Gradually, the colors intermingle to create a colorful pattern perfect for the Yuletide season.

Since August, Eli has made and sold nearly 1,700 ornaments that sell for $3-$10 each. All proceeds go toward fulfilling the Christmas wishes of sick kids at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. His goal this year was to raise $5,000. He exceeded that ambition, selling instead $7,052.30 worth of ornaments to people willing to help out a good cause.

In Memory of Grandpa William

Eli has been making ornaments and Christmas novelties such as chocolate bars festooned as reindeer and snowmen in memory of his grandfather, William Edward Short, who died of cancer in April 2012.

“While he had cancer, it was on my birthday and I realized there are kids going through the same thing,” said Eli. “So on my 9th birthday, I gave all my presents to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in honor of my grandfather.”

After that first year’s donations, Eli decided to continue helping ailing kids. He and his mother, Caryn, decided to launch a fundraiser effort Eli named “Bish and Bash” by decorating Christmas ornaments, selling them and donating the money to the children’s hospital.

Ta-da! The finished product!Eli also is his own best salesman. He goes to craft shows, local businesses, church functions and private events to sell his handiwork to willing customers.

Social media has helped boast sales. People from as far away as Maryland buy Eli’s ornaments thanks to his Facebook page where photos demonstrate the colorful, vibrant variety of creative ways to make Christmas decorations dazzle a tree or wreath.

“I just knew Christmas ornaments would sell,” said Eli.


Bish and Bash Facebook page

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Adrian Hirsch
Adrian Hirsch has been with SNN since its launch, starting as an intern from Grand Valley State University where he received a degree in broadcasting and business. After the internship, Adrian was brought on as staff to continue reporting, editing and publishing stories for SNN and Kent ISD. Adrian has been active with community radio station WYCE for years, served as Non-Profit Coordinator for GRTV, and currently works as the Web Producer for SNN.


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