TMJH students, eager to help the needy, find the holiday spirit |

TMJH students, eager to help the needy, find the holiday spirit

Students at Treasure Mountain Junior High are learning a valuable lesson this holiday season: Even in a resort town like Park City, a lot of families struggle to make ends meet.

"We have had people from the community come in and talk about poverty in Park City, so the students have a very clear understanding of the very real need there is in town," said Julie Hooker, who teaches leadership classes at the school. "We’ve had conversations about how the federal poverty line is about $24,000, but here in Park City a family of four can’t live on that. The kids understand that a lot of their peers, their friends, their neighbors are in need."

And now the students are taking action. Students in Hooker’s Leadership I class have organized a school-wide toy drive in conjunction with Operation Hope, a Christian Center of Park City program that aims to ensure that more than 1,000 needy children in the area receive holiday gifts. Students recently put up a Christmas tree in the school’s main forum and adorned it with ornaments that describe the kinds of toys they are seeking.

Students, faculty and other members of the community can bring in new, unwrapped gifts and donate them by placing them under the tree until Dec. 10.

"I like the act of just giving to people," said Elias Huber, one of the students heading up the toy drive. "It’s something that you really don’t get to do that often. So it’s cool to see how many people you can help."

Lauren Pederson, who is also helping with Operation Hope, said the project has opened her eyes to how many people are in need in Park City during the holidays. She has enjoyed doing her part to help out.

"I think about what it’s like for me opening presents on Christmas," she said. "I just imagine their smiling faces when they get something under the tree, and it’s either from Santa or from their parents. They get something, and they’re able to tell their friends that they got something for Christmas."

Additionally, other students are making blankets and collecting clothing for the Christian Center to help keep children warm during the winter. As of last week, Hooker said 120 crates and a bunch of garbage bags full of clothes had already been gathered.

Student Alexandra Bruemmer is in charge of gathering one specific item, and she’s hopeful the community will respond by flooding the clothing drive with them.

"The most-requested and least-donated item to places like the Christian Center are socks," she said. "Getting sock donations is actually a really big deal."

For her part, Hooker is proud of the way the students have rallied to help the community.

"As adults, we often forget that students can do sometimes more than we can," she said. "They can think outside the box. They take it very seriously. Adults think about writing a check or making a donation. And the kids think about doing and giving and going the extra mile."

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