WINNETKA – The North Shore Country Day School Upper School Community Service Club organizes a holiday drive for Northwestern Settlement House in Chicago each year. Advisories pair up and adopt a family for the holidays, providing much-needed clothing, toys, household items and grocery store gift cards to families who are having a hard time making ends meet. Faculty and staff also pitch in to support the effort.
Each advisory group is assigned to a family, but students can choose which wish they want to fulfill for which family member. “We’re given information about the family and the situation they’re in,” explained junior Anna Roszak, one of the junior leaders of the club. “It builds more of a connection and makes it more personal. It’s nice to know that the person you’re buying these presents for wants and needs what you’re giving them.”
Students brought in their wrapped gifts and then after school on Dec. 13, all of the items were brought out to the center of the Upper School for a big packing party. Presents were sorted, boxed up, loaded into a van and delivered to Northwestern Settlement.
While this is a purely optional activity, most students jump at the chance to help others in such a tangible way. This year, North Shore students, faculty and staff were able to provide a happy holiday season for more than 50 individuals from 12 different families.
“One thing that’s really special about North Shore’s Community Service Club is that we focus on hands-on service,” said junior Livvy Whitmore. “In this season, when a lot of the focus can be on yourself or your very close friends and family, being able to spend just a little money to contribute to such an awesome cause that really helps families is a great way to give back.”
Northwestern Settlement became one of the primary beneficiaries of the North Shore’s holiday drive efforts about 25 years ago, but the idea of giving back to the community—especially around the holidays—goes back to the School’s earliest days. Just before winter break in 1920, North Shore’s Founding Headmaster received a telegram from Santa asking if students would be willing to repair toys which would then be distributed to needy families “so that every boy and girl in Chicago may have at least one toy at Christmas time.” The students spent the next two weeks volunteering in the toy shop, making old toys like new and helping to bring cheer to less fortunate children. That tradition went on for more than 40 years.
“The fact that we are a more privileged school on the North Shore, being able to use our resources and still give back and acknowledge the differences in our community is really important,” explained junior Paige Forester.
Upper School students were not the only ones spreading holiday cheer to the less fortunate. This year, the Middle School Student Council organized a toy drive through U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program. Students collected unwrapped toys, which were then distributed to nonprofits who gave them out to needy families.
The Middle School Student Council typically organizes two fundraisers for various charities each year. This year, they’re hoping to pull off three, explained James, the Student Council President. Earlier this fall, students raised more than $1,000 for the American Red Cross, and they set a goal to collect 500 toys for this event.
“We really love the holidays and we wanted to share that love with kids that might not be as fortunate as us,” he said.
Submitted by North Shore Country Day School