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School's charitable program provides for needy families

Surrounded by donated canned goods, homemade stockings, and freshly purchased gifts, Nancy Bordeau wraps up the final few presents for local students and their families. Lauren Tiner. (click for larger version)
December 23, 2009
Gilford High School's Student Service Department recently finished up their annual holiday project, Adopt-a-Child, just in time for the holidays, providing presents and food for almost 90 children this year.

This number has increased considerably this year due to the economy, according to Nancy Bordeau of student services, who helps make Adopt-a-Child possible each holiday season.

Bordeau explained that each family in need must have at least one child in the school district (although they are kept anonymous).

"There were more families in need this year. We usually average around 75, and this year it went to 90. It didn't go as high as we first thought," said Bordeau. "Baskets were way higher than normal. We usually average about 35 to 40 baskets, and now we are at 57."

Ester Kennedy of the student service department explained that as the need increases, the response from the community also increases.

"It is the Gilford-Gilmanton community, helping the Gilford-Gilmanton community. As the need increases, more community members have come to the table and offered their services to Gilford and Gilmanton high school families," said Kennedy. "They have come under hard economic times. A few of them are new faces. They are still supporting the community, but they had to take time, job, and pay cuts."

A large holiday wreath hangs in the hall of GHS with a paper ornament to represent each child or family. Once the wreath went up Dec. 1, Bordeau said the presents started coming in, and she found the response this year to be generous and prompt.

Each child on the holiday wreath is "adopted" by a community member, a student parent, the police department, or the fire department, which makes a donation annually as well. Bordeau said that school related organizations such as the Interact program, student council, and the French club all help out. S

he added that the program runs solely on donations. A local psychologist donates to the cause every year, and "outside folks" always adopt a child or make a donation this time of year, said Bordeau.

Families get a choice of food baskets with breakfast and lunch items during the holiday break, presents, or both depending on their needs. The Student Service Department must assess the number of children and families they have and then sort out the donated food and gifts.

"I make sure every child gets a new toothbrush and toothpaste," said Bordeau, who is mimicking a tradition among her family when she was a child.

Although the number of families requesting help in the school district this year has increased, a last-minute plea ensured that every one of them will get the help they need.

"We still had 40 kids last week (unclaimed). I was worried at first, but I sent out a few e-mails and they were all taken within a matter of minutes. It really has been wonderful," said Bordeau.

Sometimes Bordeau ends up doing some shopping for gifts and tries to balance out the number of presents each child is given, though she said shopping is the fun part. She said the most popular trends this year seem to be the Zhu Zhu pets and Snuggies.

The French Club pooled their money from a Halloween fundraiser and donated all the proceeds to Adopt-a-Child. Students plan to do the shopping themselves, said Bordeau, and always "know what the kids enjoy." She said that sometimes the parents can be somewhat vague when filling out their wish list, and having the students to help, since they can relate to their peers, always alleviates some pressure.

Gilford Elementary School also gets involved by creating a stocking for each and every child, said Kennedy.

The food for the holiday baskets came from a Thanksgiving food drive, which all three Gilford Schools participated in, said Bordeau. One food drive was held before Thanksgiving, and one was held after for additional donations.

"All the schools competed to see who brought in the most canned goods. The middle school principal said she would match the numbers (GMS brought in), which were well over 200. A great deal of what's here came from the fundraisers," said Bordeau.

Along with the help of Sharon Wallace, Kennedy and Bordeau have been collecting food and presents, and wrapping them all December long to ensure that Gilford and Gilmanton families get the most out of their holiday season.

The Student Service office at GHS is a year-round resource, added Kennedy, who encourages those still in need to seek out the department for help or for more resources. The GHS Student Service Department office can be reached at 524-7135, ext. 226.

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