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​About 90 students from several groups volunteered at the Santa Shop for
tasks such as wrapping presents.

​Santa Shop Helps Providence Families Celebrate Christmas

Students at a Providence independent middle school will have a merrier Christmas this year, thanks to a “Santa Shop” at Providence College organized by the Dirigo Leadership Honor Society and assisted by several student groups.

Families of about 55 boys enrolled at The San Miguel School each were invited to select three items from among the more than 150 gifts at the event. San Miguel, run by the De LaSalle Christian Brothers, serves fifth- through eighth-grade boys of limited financial means.

Kevin Brawley ’12 first organized the event for families of sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders last year. This year, members of Dirigo — 13 seniors who have held top leadership roles on campus — took up the challenge and extended the program to all four of the school’s class years. Gifts were donated by students, faculty, and staff.

They started work in late October, planning how to approach potential donors and organize volunteers. Members also reached out to student groups to spread the word and encourage students to buy toys as well as make monetary contributions.

“We thought it was a great success,” said Annie Wendel ’13 (Ridgefield, Conn.). “We’re definitely looking forward to doing it again next year. It’s a really great opportunity for PC to continue our presence in the community.”

About 90 students volunteered for the Santa Shop from groups such as the Board of Programmers, the Board of Multicultural Student Affairs, Campus Ministry, Student Congress, the Office of Student Activities-Involvement-Leadership, Pastoral Council, and Friars Club along with the Pep Band and women’s field hockey team. They helped coordinate the donations as well as set up the event at the Campus Ministry Center.

“We tried to make it festive, just to make it as friendly and welcoming as possible,” Wendel said.

Festive fun

Sodexo, PC’s food service vendor, donated eggnog and cookies for the families to enjoy while they waited for their turn to choose presents. The students also played Christmas music and had volunteers dress in red and wear reindeer antlers and hats.

Gabriella Carbone ’13 (Bellerose, N.Y.), who coordinated volunteers for the event, said they tried to make the event as convenient as possible for families — even posting students to ensure that parents didn’t get lost on their way to the Campus Ministry Center.

“They got to relax a little bit. It wasn’t as hectic as a Toys “R” Us,” she said.

Sports equipment such as footballs and basketballs were a popular choice for parents, Wendel said, though their irregular shapes presented a challenge for those who volunteered to wrap the gifts.

Some students even served as interpreters for families who needed that assistance, Wendel said.

Brother Lawrence Goyette, F.S.C.,  ’72 & ’07Hon., San Miguel’s executive director, praised the students for the hours they spent putting the Santa Shop together. “They organized it just like a Santa’s workshop,” he said.

It’s just one example of PC students assisting San Miguel. For example, members of the Organization of Latin American Students have mentored the middle schoolers on winter weekends for several years, Brother Lawrence said. 

The Santa Shop meant a lot to the families of his students, he added.

“We literally have families that don’t even think about Christmas,” he said. “The expense, the gifts … it’s basically just another day.”

But the help provided by PC and other organizations that adopt families and students during this season “allow kids to have a really special Christmas.”  

— Liz F. Kay

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