When more than a dozen boxes of donations were delivered to Penns Valley Elementary School on Friday afternoon, six fifth-graders offered to help organize the goods.
Lauren Ott, 10, stood at one table in the hallway near the cafeteria, unloaded the items and handed them to classmate Rachel Dreibelbis, 10, who organized them by category.
Faith Fetterolf and Ray Knepp, and Ty Houtz and Alex King teamed up on a similar assembly-line system at two nearby tables.
Friday was the last day Penns Valley Area School District students made donations at each school for the Christmas of Hope project through the Hope Fund of Penns Valley. Faculty and staff then collected the items and delivered them to Penns Valley Elementary to be organized.
Students were asked to donate school supplies, personal care products and winter wear to be distributed in pillowcases for children in need during the holidays.
“There are some children in the area that simply don’t have these necessities,” said Connie Gensimore, Christmas of Hope committee member.
In its fifth year, the initiative aims to collect items and gifts for underprivileged children in the Penns Valley area.
This year, about 70 children have been identified by school district counseling staff to be recipients. That’s grown from just a handful of children about five years ago, said Kathy Coursen, another Christmas of Hope committee member.
The donation process started Nov. 10 at the schools but has been underway in the community since September and lasts through December, Coursen said.
This was the first year members of Christmas of Hope teamed up with the Penns Valley Parent Teacher Group, which helped set up distribution centers at the schools to help with the Christmas campaign.
According to a release from the district, its mission was to encourage students “to continue this spirit of giving to those in need.”
“I like to help people,” Ray, 10, said. “It puts a big smile on my heart.”
The organization also has gotten donations from Penns Valley-area businesses and organizations such as E&L Supplies, of Spring Mills, Grace United Methodist Church, in Centre Hall, and St. John’s Union Church, near Farmers Mills, whose members annually make blankets to give away.
“What we’ve found in the past is that Penns Valley is very generous,” Coursen said. “We get so much inventory that we can’t really put a number on how much we get but, every year, including this year, everyone is taken care of.”
The last of three donation drop-offs will be from 3 to 7 p.m. Dec. 3 at Grace UMC in Centre Hall. Special arrangements can be made if necessary.
Committee organizers and volunteers will then organize the donations and distribute the goods as equally as possible by Christmas Day to the children, Gensimore said.
The organization is also hoping to put together a special gift for the children. In the past, Christmas ornaments or other knickknacks have been donated, but this year, the organization wants to give each child a Bible, Coursen said.
And in last-minute cases, Coursen said volunteers have also made an effort to go shopping for items on Christmas Eve to make sure everyone is served.
“We’re overwhelmed with the generosity of the community,” Coursen said. “It truly takes everyone to make this a reality.”