December 21, 1998
Woodinville High School students Kaylee Hansen (front) and (left to right) David Holmberg, David Chang, Sean Skilingstad, and Travis Ault braved the frigid nights last week to collect blankets and coats for needy families.
Photo by E-Chieh Lin.
by Julie King, special to the Woodinville Weekly
"Two angels knocked on my door yesterday," said Lolita, a 38-year-old homeless woman. "I said to them, 'God uses people as angels, and you are truly angels. There are halos over your heads.'"
Lolita is staying at the Kenmore Family Shelter, a transitional housing facility, with her husband and four-year-old son. She said that when two Woodinville High School girls brought food and gifts to her family, she started to cry.
Lolita said that she had just begun a new job, but was heartbroken when she learned that she would not get paid before Christmas. She did not think her son would have any toys this year, but on Dec. 14, the students delivered armloads of gifts.
"We had absolutely nothing," she said. "I could not believe and still cannot believe that people are reaching out the way they are."
The Woodinville High School students who helped Lolita and her family are part of the school's tenth annual Winterfest, a two-week event organized by students to serve the community. Through the Adopt-a-Family program, students collected food and gifts to brighten the holidays for 11 needy families. The students also held a blood drive and a Blanket and Warm Clothing Drive.
About 30 students stayed after school to wrap the presents, and 15 of them delivered the items directly to the families. The students involved in the delivery witnessed the firsthand results of their service, and they relayed their experiences to the student body during an assembly.
"All the families were very thankful," student body Vice-President David Chang said. "There were a lot of thank you's."
"These students made a Christmas for people who could not, on their own terms, make a Christmas for themselves," Lolita said. "They were truly a blessing not only to me, but to so many other families."
During the Blanket and Warm Clothing Drive, held Dec. 16 and 17, student officers and other student leaders slept outside the downtown Q.F.C. market collecting donations to help needy families get through the winter.
"The only thing that keeps us warm during the night is community donations," said Chang.
Clutching the blanket she had wrapped around her, sophomore Leinani Garces said that the students who were sleeping out did not wear any more clothing than what they would normally wear to school.
"It's starting to get kind of cold," she said. "This gives me an idea of what it is like to be homeless."
Friday morning, all of the donations collected from the Blanket and Warm Clothing Drive were lined up along a brick wall in front of the school. Students coming up the stairs from the parking lot could see how many people would be warmer this holiday season.
Woodinville High School's activities director, Jay McGinness, said that Winterfest is initiated and organized by students.
"The A.S.B. [Associate Student Body] did a great job of getting out into the community and finding where the needs are," he said. "Through the blood drive, the Adopt-a-Family program, and the blanket drive, there are a lot of people being helped."
Chang said that helping the community also had a positive impact on the students. It is easy for those who have grown up in middle- to upper-class suburbs to forget that there are needs all around them, he said.
"Winterfest makes the students aware of people who are less-fortunate than we are," Chang said.
McGinness said that the students' enthusiasm and effort to reach out to those who have less than they do showed they really cared.
"I really saw the students open up their hearts to others," he said. "They gave not only their money, but also their time."
Perhaps the most rewarding effect of the students' generosity is the reflection of this kindness in the lives of people like Lolita, who said that the students' compassion inspired her to give a pair of her son's shoes away to someone who needed them more.
"Giving is the true spirit of Christmas," she said. "And these students understand that."