The North Denver community pitched in this holiday season for the gift drive at Cheltenham Elementary School organized by school nurse Mary Van Nest and school psychologist Cari Ledger. Community members, Hogan Lovells Law Firm, Dwell Church, school staff members, and Christian Riders in Faith Motorcycle Ministry all contributed to make the holidays special for 114 children. Mary noted that the program was originally only able to support about 40 students until last winter when one community member asked if she could post the need on Facebook, and they were able to triple the amount of kids they were able to support. With 90%+ of students utilizing the free and reduced lunch program, combined with the recent economic hardships, there was a tremendous need this year for even basics like pillows and blankets.
Cari noted they identify students in need as “families that we know are homeless or have come to us in the past with financial struggles. The teachers know the kids and families best. We try our best to get families whatever they need. In the past when we’ve done this, we’ve gotten tears and screaming and super joyful responses. This year, more than ever, families are just happy to have something for their kids under the tree, and they don’t have to struggle with where that’s coming from.” There is still a need for more support, so anyone wanting to participate next winter can call the school at 720.424.8810 and ask to connect with Cari or Mary for the gift drive.