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Cafeteria becomes one-stop holiday shop

Donations help families in need with gifts

Kenowa Hills — ‘Twas the Tuesday before Christmas, and all through Alpine Elementary, not a teacher was teaching and the school welcomed families.

Cafeteria tables were covered with clothes, toys and other gifts, in hopes that students’ parents could cross shopping and wrapping off their lists.

The children were crafting all snug in a nearby classroom, while their parents ate Christmas cookies and shopped in the lunchroom.

For the past few years, Alpine has invited around 30 families based on need to visit their Snowflake Shop after school and select Christmas gifts, at no cost, for their students.

Third-grade teacher Brooke Johnston explained how staff members collect donations from friends and the community all year to stock the shop. 

“Our original plan was to provide books, toys and coats for the children from these families,” she said, “but we have a very generous staff and connections with other partners so we have added stocking stuffers, crafts, games, blankets, clothes and household items this year.” 

Holiday music played while parents and grandparents carefully selected smaller items as stocking stuffers. If they were searching for socks or shoes in certain sizes, Alpine staff members were quick to assist. 

After families chose their items, volunteers from other schools in the district and Kenowa Hills High School National Honor Society members wrapped and addressed each gift in festive paper and shiny bows.

Each family invited to the shop also got a cookie decorating kit and basket of toiletries and cleaning products to take home with their shopping haul. 

Said Johnston, “We recognize that some of our families are doing their very best, but they face challenges that can make Christmas a stressful time of the year.”

Second-grade teacher Julie Mortimore added that the Snowflake Shop meets many holiday season needs.

“Having more donations opens this event up to more families and gives parents voice and choice when picking out their kids’ Christmas gifts,” she said. 

Read more from Kenowa Hills: 
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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter covering Byron Center, Caledonia, Godfrey-Lee, Kenowa Hills and Thornapple Kellogg. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News, covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry, before finding her calling in education reporting and landing at SNN. Alexis is also the author of a poetry chapbook, “Learning to Sleep in the Middle of the Bed.”

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