Christmas came a little bit earlier than planned for four Denair Charter Academy families on Friday as staff donated food, clothing, cooking utensils and other basic necessities just in time for the holidays.
“It is very inspirational,” said Principal Dawn Allen. “To work here, you have to be an empathetic person. The whole staff has been contributing.”
In an effort to find a way to positively impact the lives of these students outside of campus, teacher Suzzan Whitecloud, counselor Sally Baker and Allen first recognized that there was a short supply of living essentials, and that some young children were even without a single toy at Christmas.
Knowing that they could not help each one of their students, Whitecloud, Baker and Allen selected four families, including the family of two DCA students who recently lost everything in an apartment fire. Although Red Cross has provided some temporary relief, the family is currently living in a hotel. DCA staff provided money to buy clothes and food as well as toys for the younger children.
Next month, the family hopes to move into another apartment and Whitecloud said that the plan is to help them move furniture.
Another family includes one DCA student and six siblings ranging from ages four to 17 years old whose grandfather just became their guardian. DCA staff donated movie tickets for the children, as well as a crockpot, a cookbook and some casseroles they made and froze.
“We want them to have home-cooked meals,” said Whitecloud. “We tried to give the kids things that would help them.”
DCA also donated presents and a Raley’s gift certificate for Christmas dinner to the family of another DCA student, which includes their grandmother and two other children. On Christmas Eve, the family can go to the store and pick up turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and other traditional items—all pre-cooked and ready to warm up the next day.
The last student who benefitted on Friday was a 16-year old who lives in a long-term motel in Modesto with her disabled parents. The teen takes three buses to get to the Denair campus once a week and also uses public transportation to get to and from her job at In-N- Out Burger. DCA staff donated an electric fry pan and toaster oven.
The student wanted nothing for herself, but she asked for a blanker for her mother.
“She even came to me and asked if she could help the family of eight (the grandfather and children),” said Whitecloud.
Baker and Whitecloud said that they both intend to give the student two jars of change they have been collecting for month, inspired by the book “Christmas Jars” by Jason F. Wright.
“To do this job, I have to understand where the kids are coming from and have empathy,” said Whitecloud. “You can’t tell them to pull up their bootstraps when they don’t have boots.”