“The schools provide 40 to 60 percent of what we give to families this time of year.”
--Carlos Murcia, Manager, Ramona Food & Clothes Closet
By Pixie Sulser
“The donations from the schools are a huge part of the holiday services provided by us,” said Ramona Food and Clothes Closet Manager Carlos Murcia. “The schools provide 40 to 60 percent of what we give to families this time of year. Our assistance, however, isn’t just limited to the holidays. Because of the schools’ efforts, we are able to provide for families throughout the year.”
Murcia was speaking of the support from the various schools in the Ramona Unified School District. As a community service during the holiday season, almost every school in the district sponsored a food drive collecting nonperishable food items to donate to the Ramona Food and Clothes Closet for use in their holiday food baskets provided to families in need in Ramona and surrounding communities.
Knowing this time of year is busy, project organizers used a variety of strategies to encourage students and staff to donate food items. Ramona High School’s Fusion and Interact clubs collected canned foods via collection boxes in classrooms and the front office, and the RHS boys basketball team hosted a canned food night collecting two cans of food as the price of admission.
Montecito High School Star Club (student government) put their community service efforts into collecting canned foods as well.
“According to Ramona Food & Clothes Closet, we donated approximately 800 pounds of food and 150 pounds of toys,” Jolie Iraheta at Ramona High School said of donations from RHS. “I am so proud of our students and staff. They are amazing.”
On the elementary school front, Mount Woodson, Hanson, Barnett and Ramona Elementary accumulated nonperishable food items with Ramona Elementary trying to “surpass our record of 820 items donated last year,” said teacher Sandy McInish.
In conjunction with food donations, many schools added toy drives to their endeavors.
“For over 20 years Hanson has done a food drive,” said Student Council advisers Teri Burns and Joyce Olson. “This year, for the first time, we added toys.”
RHS Interact and Fusion Clubs also collected new, unwrapped toys for the Ramona Food and Clothes Closet to distribute to local families.
When asked by advisers Burns and Olson why community service is important, Hanson Elementary Student Council President Casey Bugglen responded, “It’s important to do community projects because not everyone does community service. And many people can’t afford food or gifts for the holidays, so we are helping them out.”
“And that’s the wonderful thing about a community like Ramona,” said Murcia. “We (the Food & Clothes Closet) don’t do it alone. Everybody helps. We are a united community.”
Barnett Elementary, Mt. Woodson Elementary, Olive Peirce Middle School’s National Junior Honor Society and Mountain Valley High School’s ASB (student government) remembered the troops during the holidays with various projects.
“Barnett students focused on Operation Care Giver collecting toothbrushes, sunscreen, Gold Bond powder and Chap Stick for the soldiers,” explained leadership adviser Judy Gunnett.
Additionally, Barnett students wrote letters to soldiers, an activity also supported by the young leaders of Mt. Woodson Elementary.
“Amber Collier, a Mt. Woodson parent, instructional aide and former Coast Guard member, is coordinating our Holiday Mail for Heroes program,” shared Principal Theresa Grace.
The project is a partnership with the American Red Cross. The students write the letters for the soldiers and the Red Cross ships the correspondence overseas.
“It’s a cool project,” said Grace. “The kids love it.”
Although the holidays tend to be the busiest time for collections and donations, many schools sponsor year-round community service events. The Leadership class of Olive Peirce Middle School completed a project in early December collecting, refurbishing and donating bicycles to Bikes for Tykes of San Diego.
Teaming with leadership students from Twin Peaks Middle School in Poway, the two schools donated a total of 42 gently used bikes. OPMS leadership students plan to continue collecting and donating bicycles throughout the year.
Anyone having a bike to donate may bring it to OPMS during school hours and “we will gladly store it until our next Bikes for Tykes gathering,” said Casey McKibbin, OPMS ASB adviser.