With 'December Events,' the Ninety-One School community collected for school families in need

With the holidays comes the famous hustle and bustle—shopping, giving, decorating and more. But this time of year, Ninety-One School families are bustling around for a purpose.

Each year, the school's parent-teacher organization holds its "December Events" to help Ninety-One families in need. The program, which has been going on for more than 15 years, involves a food drive, sock and underwear drive, giving tree and book collection; and then culminates in a gift-wrapping day.

KRISTEN WOHLERS - Participating parents are busy at work, wrapping gifts for families.

Why do they do it?

"I was willing to take it over as a pause from the commercialism of Christmas, and to teach Megan—she was in kindergarten at the time—that you know what, Christmas isn't about presents," said Katrina Gingerich, the Giving Tree chairperson. "It isn't just about the presents we get. It's what we give and what we do for other people as well…So I think it's a great way to teach them, but also it's the reason for the season to me—to give back to the community."

One mom, who was at the gift-wrapping day on Monday, Dec. 10, has been involved in December Events for 16 years—since her daughter, now a senior in college, was in kindergarten.

"I remember coming the first time when my daughter was in kindergarten, not really knowing what to expect—just thinking it was something to help out with—and then just having an awesome feeling of community and having the Christmas spirit going," Sarah Rumpca said. "So I just keep coming back even though my kids have moved on from Ninety-One."

This year's "December Events Wild West Roundup" is meeting the needs of 39 Ninety-One School families in need, including 116 children. Each family will receive a large food box, a gift card, gifts for all children in the home, books, socks and underwear for the whole family.

KRISTEN WOHLERS - Ninety-One parents wrap gifts for fellow school families on Monday, Dec. 10.

The December Events chairperson Nikki Rodolph said all recipients welcome the community's generosity and are more than thankful.

"Last year or the year before I got the sweetest call from one of the moms," Rodolph said. "She was like, 'My pantry was empty before this. I am so overwhelmed.' And she was crying. 'I went in and put it all on my shelves, and it looks full.'

"We've talked to several families that have been a part of it in the past," Rodolph continued, "that just say it is humongous for them to be blessed by the gifts and the food."

And these Ninety-One givers don't just get the job done; they shop, collect and wrap with all their hearts.

"This is my most favorite part of any of the school activities that we offer here," said Jackie Shunn, chair of the sock and underwear drive. "It does feel like such a community base, knowing it stays right here in the community of kids that get served. That's just the heart. And you just feel the hearts here beating for this function.

"It's not just doing it, and saying, okay you get what you get," she added. "It's trying to put the heart into it."

The PTO never has trouble emptying the giving tree, and some families even opt to buy gifts for whole families. This year, a table spanning nearly the width of the school's gymnasium was filled with extra gifts that wrappers could use to pad the gifts already designated for certain kids so that each child in the family would receive equally.

KRISTEN WOHLERS - Ninety-One school parents gather like elves on Monday, Dec. 10 to wrap presents for 39 of the school's families that could use extra help this season. The families will also receive a food box, books, socks and underwear.

In the end, the community brought in 2,600 food items plus $1,250 for additional food, 1,400 socks and underwear at the last count, as well as books and gifts for each child.

"It truly is an amazing time of year where our community steps up and does some amazing things for families in need," said Principal Skyler Rodolph. "We really are a community taking care of our community."

Kristen Wohlers
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