Gilles-Sweet Elementary makes holiday season special for Fairview Park families

Gilles Sweet Giving Tree

Students at Gilles-Sweet Elementary gave back to the community through the Mitten and Sock tree available in the main office of the school.

January 11, 2022


Students and staff at Gilles-Sweet Elementary School made a brighter holiday season for families in the community with their annual gift-giving drives.

The Giving Tree/Adopt-a-Family is a staff-based program that helped eight different families at the building this year.

“Many, many years ago, they [staff] decided that instead of giving each other gifts, they wanted to give gifts to our families in need,” Jeanne Johnson, secretary to the principal and chief organizer of the Giving Tree, explained. “We ask among the teachers who they feel is a family who needs a little bit of extra help. And then we send home a list to the families, asking them what they would really like.”

After the list was created, small paper ornaments were placed on a tree in the school’s main office with the requested items. Staff selected the ornaments and returned the purchased items to the main office. The items were all gift wrapped, ready to go for the holidays.

“The one family we gave stuff to with our Adopt-a-Family, she asked who she could send the thank you note to,” Johnson said. “I told her just to us. I would post it and give everyone the chance to read it.”

“One mom brought in spaghetti to thank all of us,” Shanna Kovi, assistant principal at Gilles-Sweet, added. “She has very little and she’s giving back and is giving thanks.”

The Sock and Mitten tree at the school was another way students could get involved with gift-giving during the holiday season. Students and families were encouraged to make donations of these items, along with other winter clothing items, through the month of December. All collected items went to Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center, part of the City Mission.

“Some kids bring in like one or two items,” Kovi said. “There was a kid who came in with a whole pile of them, a huge shopping bag full of socks, mittens, hats, and scarves. They get to put them on the tree themselves.”

This year, socks were also added to the list of requested items for the tree.

“That’s what the shelters say,” Johnson added. “The most requested item at the shelter is socks.”

In the end, the entire tree was filled with donated items from students and families. Including all the other school district’s buildings, 28 families in need received gifts this holiday season. The gift-giving drives were a great way to end a difficult year and showed how much staff, students, and families continue to support each other.

“There’s definitely a sense of warmth, and everyone is part of that sense of giving back,” Kovi explained. “It’s just positive energy. You can tell that there’s just a lot of effort put into the social-emotional well-being of everyone here.”

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