Organizers of the Secret Santa Gift Drive for the students within the Westwood Unified School District gather at the Westwood Family Resource Center. Pictured are Clampers Jim Carr,left, and Doug Kaser, Dollar General district manager Becky Flemming, Dollar General manager Emily Moya, Mary Gow, treasurer The Chimney Fund, Janet Gonzales, vice president of The Chimney Fund, Michael Altenburg, principal/superintendent of the Westwood Unified School District, Nicole Young, director Westwood Family Resource Center, and Bill Schneckloth, the historian for the Clampers. Photo submitted

Joint effort results in a successful Secret Santa

Every student within the Westwood Unified School District received a gift before winter break as part of a Secret Santa gift drive organized by the Westwood Family Resource Center located at the One Stop on Birch Street. Students drew the name of a classmate and selected a present at a “Gift Shop” set up in the school library by staff from the resource center Tuesday, Dec. 17.

During the months of November and December the Westwood Family Resource Center worked in partnership with Dollar General to accept gift donations from the community to distribute to the students at Fletcher Walker Elementary and Westwood Jr/Sr High School.

“With the help of The Chimney Fund and E Clampus Vitus Chapter 1911 we were able to purchase enough blankets for all 182 students, $10 gift cards for 54 high schoolers, and fill in presents that weren’t covered by donations,” said Nicole Young, director of the Westwood Family Resource Center.

Gifts were distributed to the ninth- through 12th-grade students Thursday, Dec. 19. Each received a gift from their Secret Santa, a blanket of their choice and a $10 gift card.

One student commented, “I haven’t opened up this many gifts in years.”

Friday, Dec. 20, students in kindergarten through eighth-grade received a gift from their Secret Santa and a blanket of their choice.

On the day students selected their Secret Santa gift Young, Emily Kolonay and Silvia Murgia worked the “shop.” Becca Nelson with the Westwood Unified Parent Teacher Student Association along with Trena Smith, administrative assistant for the Westwood Unified School District, created a schedule for the activity that worked well for both teachers and the staff from the resource center. Each grade came to the library at their scheduled time to select a gift for their “secret” classmate.

Young said the staff from the Westwood Family Resource Center returned to the office to gift wrap all 182 items with the help of volunteers Sheri Binswanger, Cherilyn Cuppelli, Theresa Long, Emily Moya, Shawnee Haver, Maddie Haver, Lusanne Fox and Lily Fox.

“This year’s Secret Santa Gift Drive was only made possible by this community,” said Young. “We could not have done it without the help of Dollar General, The Chimney Fund, Westwood PTSA, the Clampers or our community as a whole. This event was really a joint effort of the whole town.”