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Local businesses provide Christmas to Fusion Charter students
A group of Fusion Charter School students sang Christmas carols at Brandel Manor and Turlock Irrigation District to express their appreciation after the two businesses donated over 60 gifts to the school. - photo by Photo Contributed

While receiving a present for Christmas is a guaranteed and highly anticipated part of the holidays for most children in the community, the same cannot be said for many of Aspiranet’s Fusion Charter students, whose financial situations might make it difficult to provide gifts for everyone in the family. However, the kindness and giving spirit of two Turlock businesses during an annual gift drive helped grant the wishes of over 60 students at the free public charter school just in time for the holidays.


During this year’s drive, Ellyn Brannon, community engagement specialist at Aspiranet, said that Turlock Irrigation District and Brandel Manor provided Christmas gifts to 62 Fusion Charter students.


“I really think this gives students hope that there are people in the community that really care about them and want to make sure that they do have a happy holiday,” said Brannon.


Brannon said that the idea to host a gift drive for students came to light shortly after the school first opened.


“When Christmas rolled around after Fusion Charter started two years ago, some parents expressed concern because they weren’t able to provide gifts for the older kids in the family,” said Brannon. “These are situations where their family budgets are so tight, that if there are gifts given during the holidays, they are given to the younger siblings first.”


Tags detailing the Christmas wishes of each student were delivered to TID and Brandel Manor a week before Thanksgiving to be placed on office Christmas trees; however, Brannon said that the tags disappeared quickly off the former’s tree, and many didn’t even make it onto the latter’s.


“The staff at Brandel was lining up to get a tag before they even made it onto the tree,” said Brannon.


Brannon said a lot of students asked for shoes, clothing, gift cards for food, musical instruments and sporting equipment; however, a lot of students asked for gift cards so they could shop for themselves.


“Shopping is a very important experience for these students because a lot of them can’t afford to go shopping and want to be able to have that experience to shop for themselves and be independent when they are a teenager,” said Brannon.


TID spokesman Calvin Curtin said that this is not the first year that TID has helped Fusion Charter as the company donated over 30 computers to the school when it first opened its doors in 2014, as well as participated in the gift drive last year.


“We were founded 129 years ago by community members with the job of serving our customers who are also our owners,” said Curtin. “Really this program is an extension of that commitment because that’s what we do all the time — serve our customers.”


To express their gratitude, a group of Fusion Charter students visited TID and Brandel Manor on Friday and Wednesday, respectively, to sing Christmas carols.


“This year, they started a choir at the school that is being led by the office manager Liliana Pineda,” said Brannon. “We were trying to think of a way for the students to give back and caroling was a great opportunity for them to go out in the community to express their appreciation to both of these organizations.”


Formed from a partnership between Aspiranet and Turlock Unified School District, Fusion Charter is a free public charter program that provides a unique educational opportunity for students in grade seven through 12 living in Stanislaus County who do not succeed in a traditional school environment. The school blends direct instruction from credentialed teachers with online learning to create a unique educational alternative for students. There are currently 150 students enrolled.


“We want parents and students in the community who are interested in a junior high or high school that provides more focus and individual attention in a small school environment that Fusion could be really great option for their students,” said Brannon.


For more information on Fusion Charter, visit