A time to give

December 18, 2020

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Schools, with help from community, provide food, gifts for families

BONANZA – It’s below freezing outside as Bonanza Junior/Senior High School Principal Jordan Osborn loads a truck with boxes of food and wrapped gifts for families in the Bonanza, Gearhart, Bly, and Sprague River areas.

“We know our families, and our families need to know we’re there for them,” Osborn said. “We meet our families where they’re at. Not everyone can come pick stuff up. We have families who don’t have electricity. We have families who don’t have gas money.”

Schools throughout the Klamath County School District, with the help of the community, this week provided food boxes and gifts to families -- offering up a bit of holiday cheer with math and reading assignments.

“Schools have an intimate window into the needs of families, and this gives us an opportunity to reach out during the holidays,” said Glen Szymoniak, superintendent of the Klamath County School District. “We are thankful to our students, staff, and the community organizations who helped us offer food and gifts to our neighbors throughout the county.”

In Bonanza, donations from staff and the community, including Living Springs Church, were used to purchase food and gifts for more than 30 students and their families. Bonanza CARES provided food boxes and gifts for 10 additional families.

In all, three truckloads of food and gifts were personally delivered on Friday by Bonanza staff. Osborn and school counselor Andy Davis teamed up to visit homes northwest of town, driving more than 200 miles through Sprague River, Bly, and Beatty. Vice Principal Sergio Cisneros and parapro Donnie Cloud visited families in the Bonanza area.

At Peterson Elementary School, 25 families received a holiday food baskets with ham, potatoes, stuffing rolls, and a pie thanks to donations from Northwest Farm Credit and The Blonde Pineapple.

Lost River Junior/Senior High School was able to provide gifts and food to families with help from Bloom and community members and organizations. Refuge Church Malin spearheaded an effort that provided a gift for every student at Lost River, Malin, and Merrill schools.

“These gifts have provided much needed relief and support to our families that have suffered job layoffs, illness, or unexpected circumstances,” said Principal Jamie Ongman. “The communities of Merrill and Malin are small in size but large in terms of care and support. They are not only generous at this season but also through the year when needed.”

Denise Swingle, vice principal at Malin and Merrill elementary schools, agreed, thanking community members and organizations that stepped up this season. Kelsey Steinberg donated new coats for students, and Malin Presbyterian Church and the O’Grady Family provided gifts for local families.

“A heartfelt thanks to all the many ways Malin and Merrill communities gather around their students and support them,” she said.

In Chiloquin, schools provided holiday dinner baskets to 63 families, and every elementary student received a wrapped gift, a gingerbread house kit, a hygiene bag, a goodie bag, and a snack bag thanks to funding and donations from anonymous donors and The Klamath Tribes.

“We are very grateful to everyone that has worked with us to make this a great holiday for our students,” said Janelle Emard, vice principal at the elementary school.

At Henley High School, the Student Council’s Giving Tree project provided gifts to 12 families and dinner baskets for 28 families. The school also opened a clothing pantry for students in need.

“Participating in the Giving Tree gives us a chance to do make a difference in our community, even while distance learning," said Grace Nyseth, Henley ASB president. “All of us in student council are so grateful for the participation from staff, students, and our community members to help us on our mission. Knowing that we are changing other people’s lives in a positive way is an indescribable feeling.”

Mazama High School’s #loadtheboatMHS community food drive collected 2,605 pounds of food and more than $1,000 for the Klamath Lake Counties Food Bank. The school’s leadership students created and delivered 70 bags to Klamath Hospice and Palliative Care patients and their families. The bags are sponsored by the Apple Pie Gang. Its National Honor Society, with the help of staff members and a $200 community donation, gathered family game and movie night basket items for foster families.

Henley Middle School has on staff an avid outdoorsman “Santa,” who provides families with elk pepperoni, steaks, and sausages for their holiday meals. Every Bonanza Elementary School family received a gingerbread house kit, and staff at the District Office adopted eight families, providing gifts, hygiene products, and gas cards among other items.

At Bonanza Junior/Senior High School, Osborn, Cisneros, and Davis have been delivering homework packets every Friday since an increase in COVID-19 cases forced all schools to deliver instruction through distance learning. The personal deliveries are a chance to check in with families who cannot regularly connect to their classes via Internet.

Of the school’s 195 students, 77 do not have regular access to the Internet, and need paper packets with lessons and assignments. A few students live north of Bly, 58 miles from Bonanza. Others live in campers and trailers. Each week, teachers take turns joining Osborn and his team on the deliveries, giving them a chance to connect with their students.

Teachers also joined the team on Friday’s daylong holiday deliveries. Food boxes included cartons of eggs, staples, spaghetti sauce, and fresh oranges, along with more traditional holiday dinner items such as potatoes, turkeys and hams, pies, and sparkling cider.

“Thank you to everyone who helped us,” Osborn said. “We made it happen.”