Park City after-school program brings gifts to children
The holidays are a time for giving, and the Park City School District and Holy Cross Ministries are joining in on the festive season. The two organizations are sponsoring a holiday party for the after-school programs at the elementary schools in the district.
On Monday, Dec. 18, all students in the program and their families are invited to attend an evening of dinner, games and gift-giving. Each student in the after-school program will be able to select a toy to bring home.
The event is possible because of a collaboration of several organizations, which Sister Mary Ann Pajakowski, education director at Holy Cross Ministries, said is part of what makes the event so successful.
“One of the things that we need to keep reinforcing is the value of collaboration in conducting programs which serve the needs of not only the children, but the families,” she said.
The nonprofit EATS will provide dinner for the event, and the nonprofit TeethFIRST! will be giving out toothbrush packets and educating students and their parents about the importance of dental hygiene.
The after-school program serves children who need extra help in academics or whose parents work in the evening. The kids do activities and receive help on their homework.
Holy Cross Ministries originally launched the gift-giving program years ago with students who were participating in the organization’s after-school program. They ended up connecting with a U.S. Marine, who helped connect them to the U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program.
When Holy Cross Ministries and the district decided to combine their separate after-school programs last year, the district also adopted the tradition. There are about 315 students that participate in the after-school programs, and each student is given a present.
Lauren Beheshti, coordinator for the district, said that she is glad to be a part of it and to see the tradition continue.
“The kids are so gracious,” she said. “They say please and thank you. They are so appreciative.”
Pajakowski said that she is always happy to see how many Park City residents have stepped up in the past and continue help ensure that the program and the holiday party are a success each year. She said that whenever they have asked for help, someone is always quick to lend a hand.
“Not everybody in Park City is the same or has the same amount of opportunities,” she said. “We have a wide socio-economic gap in some areas, and that translates into an education gap. But there is a real willingness to make it happen in Park City.”
The event is scheduled to be held at Parley’s Park Elementary School from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and will begin with an opening program and dinner, after which students will select their toys. Any toys that are not distributed are donated to other programs for children and families in Park City and the surrounding area.
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The Park City Board of Education is on track to place a bond on the ballot this fall to improve district facilities. The top priorities would be to put ninth grade in the high school, eighth grade in the middle school and to augment preschool offerings by expanding elementary schools.