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Ellsworth students show support for local families in Gift Box Program

This year's Gift Box Program student volunteers are (from left) Rachel Sullivan, Anna Olson, Jake Nevison, Julia VanWatermeulen, Nadia Sigler and Claire Straub. Katie Davidson / RiverTown Multimedia

Ellsworth High School students have been planning this year's Gift Box Program since October, and are ready to see their hard work benefit the families in need in their community.

The six students in charge of running this year's holiday program, Julia VanWatermeulen, Jake Nevison, Claire Straub, Nadia Sigler, Rachel Sullivan and Anna Olson, have put their organizational skills to the test over the past month by matching this year's families with sponsors who are willing to buy gifts such as clothes, shoes, toys, etc. or make monetary donations to the Gift Box Program.

The holiday program was originally put on by other organizations such as CrossRoad Community Church and Bank Mutual, but this is the fourth year the Ellsworth School Foundation has taken over the program along with the help of Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services and community volunteers.

Anne Pechacek, the students' supervisor said the project requires a large community effort, but that the Ellsworth High School students are the program's core.

Any project like the Gift Box program takes a lot of behind-the-scenes work to be a success, but according to the six students involved in the community project, that work is worth it when they see their final results.

"It's super rewarding, because sometimes when you do volunteer work, you don't really get to see the outcome," Olson said, "but we get to go work and hand out the presents to the families, so it's really cool to see their reactions."

"I started because I just love making people happy, and the smile on their faces when you hand them a gift just warms your heart," Sullivan added.

The student workers will see their work pay off on Dec. 13-14 when families come to Pierce Pepin to pick up their gifts.

After the second week in November, 55 families had applied to be sponsored in the Gift Box Program. Pechacek said that last year the program sponsored close to 80 families, and that they'll still be taking applications from families until Wednesday, Nov. 15.

Sigler pointed out that despite Ellsworth's small town size, there are still a large number of families in the community who need the extra help. Because of this, the Gift Box Program is still looking for sponsors who are willing to help out their fellow community members.

"I think overall, people are super grateful for [our work], because they wouldn't be coming to us if they didn't need the help," Olson said. "They're super happy, and it's cool to see that we can make that happen for them."

More information on how to get involved in this year's Gift Box Program can be found at " target="_blank">www.ellsworth.k12.wi.us/community/gift-box-program.cfm.

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