Students share gifts with low-income families

This holiday season, Solana Beach School District schools are emphasizing the importance of giving back through their Care and Share program.

The program has been a tradition for the last 10 years, supporting low-income district families who need a little extra help making the holidays bright.

The district's three Carmel Valley schools, Carmel Creek, Solana Highlands and Solana Pacific are sponsoring 58 families this year. Collections started this week and will be delivered to families the week of Dec. 16 at Skyline Elementary in Solana Beach.

This year, the need within the district has increased, according to Care and Share organizer Gracie Fusaro, who is also the district's bilingual community liaison. So much so in fact, that she wasn't sure the schools could take on all the families.

But Carmel Valley moms in charge, Lori Good, Ceclia Koo and Marci Cunningham, said Care and Share was something the schools just had to do, especially in the current economic climate.

"Even if some of us are feeling it, they've got to be feeling it worse," said Good, who is running the Solana Highlands and Solana Pacific drives.

A gift for everyone

Each classroom gets wish lists, with clothing sizes for each family member. The goal is that every member has a gift to open for the holidays.

While the sponsored parents' sizes are also on the list, classroom parents often opt to give them gift cards to places like Walmart or Food for Less, Koo said.

"It's really just to give the families a little bit of holiday cheer," Koo said. "And I think the kids really enjoy doing it."

"People really get behind this drive," Good added. "Some families make it their charity of the season to support."

Carmel Creek can

In addition to the Care and Share program that started this week, Carmel Creek also participated in a canned-food drive the last week of November in conjunction with the Pacific Athletic Club.

Catherine Bell, president of the Aloha chapter of Kids Korps which includes students from Carmel Creek and Solana Pacific schools, helped organize the school's first-ever can drive.

The food donations went to St. Clare's Home shelters in Escondido, which house women and children who are homeless and victims of abuse. There are eight St. Clare's transition shelters housing five to seven families.

Foods like soups, canned fruits, vegetables and desserts were sorted at the athletic club on Nov. 24, while Carmel Creek's Brownie Troops decorated place mats for the families.

The donations filled three large packing boxes per house plus a full grocery bag with items like pasta and cereal, Bell said.

Bell said the combination of the two sites made for a very successful drive.

"Carmel Creek's support was really great," she said. "The children tend to see and get the value of giving."

The Aloha chapter will continue their community service in December by participating in Camp Pendleton's Secret Santa program and serving the homeless with the Bread for Life organization.

Community members who are interested in supporting a Solana Beach School District family this holiday season can e-mail Lori Good at

lorigood@san.rr.com

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