For eight Quincy families, Santa Claus will arrive on time this year, thanks to the efforts of the National Honor Society which organized, collected, and purchased gifts and food for them.
“Without these gifts, many of these families wouldn’t have a Christmas,” said senior and NHS President Caroline Bloomer who spearheaded the “Point of Christmas” drive. “No gifts, no food, no Christmas - so our gifts will really help them,” she said.
Bloomer and her classmates were responsible for filling eight oversized “garbage” bags with gifts, and just as many extra-large laundry baskets with food for families that, all together, have 20 children.
It’s an effort that Bloomer’s family has been involved with at Archbishop Williams for 15 years since her older siblings were students at AWHS and her father William was principal at the nearby Clifford Marshall Elementary School - the school which is the recipient of the gifts.
“It’s nice to know that the holidays will be joyous for those families,” Bloomer said.
In each bag are the necessities - hats, gloves, jackets, and boots. But since it’s Christmas and most of the recipients are children, there are fun gifts too - all kinds of games and toys for boys and girls!
The project is the “best thing ever,” said Kelly Davoli, NHS co-moderator. “These are struggling, high-need families. Our students can be so proud of their efforts to provide for them,” she said.
Many of the gifts are contributed by students, their families and AWHS staff. But many more are purchased from cash donations: the AWHS students are given the children’s names plus information about their preferred gifts, hobbies, likes and dislikes, and go mall shopping to make a match.
“There’s something about this project that touches our students,” said NHS moderator Linda DeRosa-Coakley. “To put names to the purchases, to know that you are actually adopting this family, really has an impact on them. When they go to make the purchases, a lot of kids even put their own money in!”
For those students committed to “Service” - one of the four NHS pillars (Character, Leadership and Scholarship are the other three) - the rewards of participating in this project are immeasurable.
“We don’t get to see the kids personally,” said junior Sebastien Joseph, “but we did see the people at the school who accepted the gifts and who told us, ‘you have made a big impact’ - it really hits you to think about that,” Joseph said.
For junior Erica MacSweeney, she’ll be thinking about the families on Christmas morning. “I think the gifts will have an impact for those families who don’t have Christmas like we do here as students at Archbishop Williams,” she said. “They’ll be really happy because I don’t think they’ll be expecting that much.”
This year’s drive was so successful, that NHS collected even more than needed - three extra boxes full of gifts, said Davoli. The Marshall school’s staff under the leadership of Principal Nick Ahearn will distribute those gifts to other families as they see fit. Even though other groups and organizations also adopt families at the school, the need is so great that any extra gifts are greatly appreciated.
In the end, the project was proof, DeRosa-Coakley said, that NHS students are committed to helping others, by giving to families who geographically - and spiritually - “are our neighbors!”