Abigail Spencer, left, Bailey Sharp, and Katie Hill, Spanish students at Bedford High School in Temperance, wrap presents to be given to one of three Toledo-area needy families.
BEDFORD PUBLIC SCHOOLS/SANDY KRAINE
El verdadero significado de la Navidad.
The real meaning of Christmas. That’s what students enrolled in Spanish classes at Bedford High School say they learned recently when they delivered truckloads of Christmas gifts to three poverty-stricken Toledo-area families.
The recipients were grateful for the boxes of food and gift-wrapped toys and the new appliances and furniture. But what struck some Bedford students was how the families they visited were recognizing Christmas.
“They didn’t have a lot of furniture in their homes,” said senior Lauren Knauss, who helped deliver the donated gifts. “[But] there were crosses in rooms, pictures of (the Lady of) Guadalupe and Nativity scenes.
“It reminded me of what Christmas is supposed to be about.”
The experience is part of a project to teach students about the importance of community service, said Spanish instructor Kelly Gargas, who oversees the annual effort.
With the help of local churches, three needy families were identified and “adopted” for the school project, said Ms. Gargas.
Because the families selected this year spoke only Spanish, students had to use their language skills to discover the families’ needs.
Many students were stunned to learn how basic they were:
One household didn’t have a refrigerator, or stove.
Another family had no living room furniture.
The three households have a total of 14 children, but none requested toys. They asked for socks and underwear. “It made me appreciate everything I have, when others have so little,” said Miss Knauss.
About 300 Bedford students volunteered to solicit community donations to help the families. They canvassed neighborhoods, posted pleas on Facebook pages and sent letters to local businesses, said freshman Abbie Spencer, 14.
Their hard work paid off: Companies including Meijer, McDonald's, and Family Video donated gift cards that allowed students to shop for the families. Walgreens donated wrapping paper.
Participants in the Bedford Senior Activity Center made quilts, blankets, hats, and gloves for the families.
Bedford residents donated money and new appliances, including a refrigerator, stove, microwaves, and washers and dryers. And the Bedford students made sure all the children received toys, in addition to their requested clothing.
Students and adult chaperones delivered the gifts to the homes of the families on Dec. 18.
The visits gave students an opportunity to practice speaking Spanish and learn the culture first-hand, said Ms. Gargas.
Student Spencer Mikula, 18, who helped carry in the heavy appliances and furniture, said it was a little awkward at the first house because of the language barriers. .
“Como te llama?” Mr. Mikula asked the young children he encountered. The question, “What is your name?” helped break the ice.
“It put them at ease,” said Mr. Mikula, who made quick friends with the children. “I hope we keep doing this and people continue giving.”
Contact Federico Martinez at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6154.