I remember in fifth grade waking up the Friday before Winter Break being excited to go to school. It was a special day for so many reasons. It was the last day before a two-week break and the day that Ms. Wilson, my fifth grade teacher, would pass out holiday gifts donated to her class. I attended Ed S. Cook Elementary School, a school zoned for Capital Homes housing projects, one of the poorest communities in downtown Atlanta. Ms. Wilson realized that there were a lot of students in her class that did not have winter coats, gloves, and shoes and totally depended on the Empty Stocking Fund for their Christmas toys. She reached out to her close friends and collected toys and clothes for her students. Even though my family did not celebrate traditional holidays due to our religious beliefs, Ms. Wilson made sure I received the coolest white and grey coat, candy canes and a couple of unwrapped toys. After the break Ms. Wilson realized that the need was much bigger than Christmas. So she rallied her friends and for the next 8 years until her retirement, her students received food, coats and toys throughout each school year.
In 2016, I embarked on a new role as the Middle Campus Student Council Advisor. In our first meeting, we all sat around in a circle in the gym and discussed our goals and plans for the year. At the end of our meeting, one of the students approached me about helping out a fellow classmate with clothes and shoes. We had to figure out a way to assist the student in need without embarrassing him. We decided on gift pals for the group, where the kids would secretly gift each other with a five-dollar gift. The next day I got a call from the student’s parents with an interest in doing more for the student. We also discussed the needs of other students in our ANCS family that were not a part of Student Council, but also needed assistance. This was our first year at ANCS providing holiday gifts to our families. We solicited help from our ANCS community for donations, and they poured in. In 2016, we provided holiday gifts and grocery gift cards for 16 families with a total of 22 kids. Each year our numbers have increased enabling us to provide for students within both of the ANCS campuses as well as Maynard Jackson High School. There have been weekends of gift-wrapping and shopping and donations of Bojangles turkeys and last minute gift cards. We have been able to make this happen because of our ANCS community.
If you are able, we hope you will join us as we once again wrap our arms around our whole school family. If your family would like support the ANCS Holiday Assistance Program, please make a donation below. I am extremely proud to work in a community where we can all come together and support each other not only through our annual campaign but also for the holidays and long breaks to ensure our students are supported in and outside of the school.