ELLSWORTH – The Ellsworth High School Gift Box Program not only brings joy to the families it serves, but to the EHS students who volunteer to run the program.
Seniors Ana Winger, Taryn Baker, Rylee Hoyer and Julia Anderson, along with juniors Morgan Kolodzienski and Josie Pechacek are working hard to make the season bright for area families through their service learning hours at EHS. Their advisor is social studies teacher Anne Pechacek.
While Winger, Anderson, and Hoyer are beginning their second year with the program, this is the first year for Baker, Kolodzienski and Josie Pechacek. The group is in the process of collecting applications and sponsorship forms and matching families to sponsors.
Applications are mailed to every family in the school district in the summer along with the free and reduced lunch information. So far, 57 families have applied for the program, which provides Christmas gifts, gift cards and essentials to families in need.
People can either donate money or sponsor a family. Monetary donations are tax deductible through the Ellsworth Community School District Foundation, a 501(c) (3), Anne Pechacek said. The Gift Box Program volunteers take the money received and shop for families who aren’t assigned a specific sponsor.
“Some families are still applying,” Anne Pechacek said. “We might make a few emergency trips to Target.”
Sponsors are asked to have their gifts to the program volunteers by Dec. 12. The drivethrough distribution takes place on Dec. 13 at Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services, who donate their facility.
Baker said her mother was part of a union and took part in an adopt-a-family program, which made her want to participate in the Gift Box Program. Anderson joined the program as a junior.
“I’m super grateful that I did it because I like seeing the families get excited when they get the gifts,” she said.
Hoyer didn’t know much about the program or its mission before she joined, but she’s glad she did. “I knew it existed, but I didn’t know all that it entails,” she said.
Josie Pechacek is no stranger to the program as Anne is her mother. Since she was small, she’s been helping, mainly as a gift wrapper.
Anne Pechacek said the program has existed in Ellsworth for 25 years. It began at the old junior high as a sort of shopping event, then moved to Crossroads Church (now C3) for eight years. In 2015, Ellsworth High School took it over. Multiple community groups and business help and donate as well.
Anderson said the families are all super appreciative and grateful, which makes the hard work worth it.
“It’s nice seeing that,” she said. “It makes me feel good.”
Hoyer agreed. “It’s rewarding to know you’re making a difference,” she said. “I’ve had that (gifts) my whole life and it’s nice to give that experience to someone else.” To fill out an application or sponsorship form, visit https://www.ellsworth.k12. wi.us/page/gift-box-program For more information, email [email protected] or call 715-8211258.