Petzel: OLCHS’ Operation Santa again comes through for the needy
By Cheryl Petzel email@example.com December 25, 2013 9:43AM
Oak Lawn Community High School students taking part in the "Wrap Party" for the school's Operation Santa Claus program to aid needy familes are (left to right) Blake Novak, Jeremy Lencki, Haley Hiljus, Teacher Jamie Hernandez, Mike Rocchino and Jamie Fionda. | Cheryl Petzel ~ For Sun-Times Media
Greetings, fellow Oak Lawnians and Merry Christmas! The students and faculty of Oak Lawn Community High School shared their Christmas spirit and generosity with the school’s Operation Santa Claus program.
The program, which ran from Dec. 2 to 13, focuses on making Christmas more special for students whose families are struggling, homeless or in need of financial assistance.
It placed Christmas trees at different locations within the school, decorated with candy cane ornaments — each of which had a gift tag identifying a person, age and an item they wanted or needed. Students and staff could select as many candy canes as they wished, purchasing the gifts listed on their candy canes.
Ellen Kruger, now in her 10th year as a math teacher at the school, has been organizing the event for the past nine years. Kruger said she participated in a similar holiday program while in college and used that idea to create the program for Oak Lawn High.
She said the response was great by both students and faculty.
“Each year we have close to 250 candy canes and usually have about six or seven families from the school whom we try to help,” Kruger said. “The names come from the school’s social workers.”
Every candy cane on each tree is accounted for. If there are any candy canes left on the trees, Kruger said “we have several teachers who usually step up and take all of them.”
Kruger and a group of students make up the Operation Santa Claus team.
“We gather a committee of students, usually a group of 15 or 20 throughout the process, who tag, inventory and do all sorts of things. They also earn (community) service hours,” she said, adding that there are a few students “who return from year to year to help.”
When all the gifts were collected, the Operation Santa Clause team hosted a “Wrap Party” to gift wrap the items. Kruger said the wrap party “is after the first day of final exams and is open to the whole school. It takes about two hours to wrap well over 200 gifts.”
Once the gifts were wrapped, the families either picked up the gifts or teachers delivered them to the families.
“We’ve collected 2,100 gifts over the past eight years, excluding gift cards for gas, groceries and stores,” Kruger said. “We usually get more gifts than we made tags for. Everyone is always more than generous with their donations.”
Congratulations to Oak Lawn High School on a job well done!
Here are this week’s celebrity birthdays. Happy birthday to Gwen and Emma Smith as they turn 2 from their mom, grandparents, Aunt Tally and cousin Aidan. Christmas birthday wishes go out to Bailey Hornik, as she turns 14, from her parents, Tom and Dale, and grandparents. Happy Sweet 16th birthday to Nicole Sharon from her parents. Happy birthday to Arman Barret, who’s turning 17, from his mom, Nicole, and grandmother, Andreen.
Happy 23rd birthday to Jennifer Martensen from her parents Donna and John, Heather, and grandmother Jane Martensen-Lytton. Also wishes for a happy 23rd go out to Tina Caruso from her parents and Julie and to the Harnois quads — Nichole, Joy, Matthew and Nathan — from their parents. Happy 51st birthday to Collin Clark from his wife, Kelly, and family.
Birthday wishes for Janice Clardy from Adam, Jonathan and Clyde. Mary Thompson’s husband, Ryan, and daughter, Roxanne, wish her a happy birthday. Christmas Eve birthday wishes go out to Steve Rockey from his wife, Beth, their children, Kara, Matt and family. Len Gornik’s family send him their love on his birthday. Christmas birthday wishes also go out to John Peterson from Sharon, Eric, Nolan, Ella, Boo and family.
Wedding anniversary wishes go out to the following couples — Joe and Theodosia Battersby on their fifth anniversary from their daughter, Penelope, and to Keith and Erin Gonsowski, who are celebrating their 10th anniversary.
Lastly, my best wishes to our Armed Forces members for Christmas and New Year’s Day. Thank you for your service, bravery and commitment, and we’re keeping you in our prayers for your safe return home to your their families.
Keep your fellow Oak Lawnians informed about birthdays, special events or special “stuff” going on with your family or within the community. Call me at (708) 899-9544 or email me at the address above.
Until next time ...