Ellsworth Gift Box planning in full swing

ELLSWORTH – This holiday season, Ellsworth High School students are fundraising and coordinating the annual Ellsworth Gift Box program that matches sponsors to families in need. The students are in charge organizing and finding sponsors and many of them are volunteering as a part of their service capstone project.

The group consists of six students who all participate in finding sponsors and looking over applications. Each applicant sends their information and wish lists and the students look over the applications and sort them from there.

Senior Carlie Mewhorter said, “We get registrants as early as August and then we also get sponsors a little slower, but once we get the sponsors flowing in we match them together.”

The students use class time to complete what needs to be done for this project each week.

“My sophomore year is when I started with this project, and since then it has just been put into our schedules so we know that we will be working on this ahead of time during this specific quarter,” said student Mckenna Minder.

Every year they match about 85 families to sponsors and when sponsors apply, they usually specify what age or size of family they want to sponsor.

“Sometimes sponsors will say ‘I really want to have school age children’ or’ I want to sponsor a larger family,’ and other sponsors don’t really have any preference so it can be flexible,” said Minder.

People can also contribute monetary donations if they do not want to commit to sponsoring an entire family. That money goes toward other families who don’t have a sponsor so they still receive the assistance that they need.

Students achieve around 50 hours of volunteer service each year in this project toward their capstone requirement. Some of the students who have been in this program for several years have contributed 150 hours into this specific project.

Currently they are looking for about 15 more sponsors to match with families before the holidays.

The students day-to-day consists of a lot of organizing.

“Each day we go through emails to see if there are any new applicants or sponsors and then we match them up and we make phone calls to those families,” said Mewhorter But that is not the end of their work. “That is the beginning of the project and then the next step is to plan our pick up and drop off at Pierce-Pepin Cooperative Services and getting that all organized and giving the families that information,” said Minder.

EHS social studies teacher and project advisor Anne Pechacek, teacher at Ellsworth said, “We really want to give Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services a shout out for letting us use their facilities and helping us with extra hands for this project. We are really appreciative of them.”

The students all agree that the best part of the whole project is when the families pick up their gifts with excitement.

Student volunteer Julia Anderson said, “Another one of my favorite parts is when we call the families and tell them that they have been matched and they are always super happy.”

To find out more about how to become a sponsor, visit the school’s website. Donations can be sent to the school made out to Ellsworth Gift Box or email [email protected]

The students behind the Ellsworth Gift Box program include Ellsworth High School students (from left): Rylee Tieman-Hoyer, Mckenna Minder, Wyatt Nelson, Juliana Winger, Julia Anderson. Not pictured is Carlie Mewhorter. Photo by Melissa Thorud

November 23, 2021