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Members help elementary give gifts and food

For about a decade, the PTA at Helman Elementary has organized a Snowflake program. Teachers and others identify families who could use some extra help during the holidays.

Each family member requested a gift that was purchased and wrapped by a member of the Helman community. A few years ago, a Helman teacher suggested that the program add the gift of a holiday dinner for each family.

This year, due to the September fires that ravaged Talent and Phoenix, Helman’s staff generously decided to include five families from each of those two elementary schools in their Snowflake program. They then found themselves with a list of requests for 30 hams, one turkey, 31 bags of non-perishable foods to make a holiday meal, and 169 gifts ranging from clothes and boots to dolls and bikes, with the most requested items being Legos. Quite a wish list to fulfill for one small school community.

Members of Soroptimist International of Ashland (SIA) have enjoyed a rewarding relationship with Helman Elementary since 2008, when we began our Strong Girls, Strong Women (SSGSW) program. COVID-19 shut us down this year: No in-person school, so no after-school classes or field trips and no lunch buddy program. We have really missed our lunch buddies! As the year without contact dragged on, we looked for a safe way to work together.

One phone call to Helman’s principal culminated in linking up SIA members with the wish list Helman had built. And true to their generous spirits and commitment to service, Soroptimists joined members of the Helman community in fulfilling those wishes. Bags full of canned goods and chocolate, yams, and potatoes began to fill the front office at Helman, while frozen hams and one turkey took up residence in the freezers that were once used for school lunches. In the large empty cafeteria, Helman’s hard-working office manager set up cardboard boxes for each of the families, placing requested gifts in them as each was purchased, wrapped and delivered to the school. Only she knew the families’ identity and what each family member had requested, protecting the families’ privacy. As the days of December rolled by, the boxes filled up, waiting to be delivered when school closed.

No Santa’s elf felt more joy in delivering gifts to boys and girls than SIA members experienced in fulfilling families’ wishes from Helman, Talent and Phoenix elementary schools. With the pandemic still raging and the destruction wrought by the September fire still evident all around, it was magical and heartwarming to be able to bring a little light into the darkness. Even without our beloved SSGSW program, club members were thrilled to help out our adopted school and join with the Helman community in providing food and gifts to others. That is the Magic of the Season and what service is all about.

Courtesy photoGifts and food were collected at Helman Elementary for Southern Oregon families in need.