For Stu Crew, the best gift is giving back

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Last week, MFL MarMac Middle School Stu Crew members Carter Stoddard (left), Holden Mathis, Amelya Weigand, Kaylee Nuehring, Ava Kishman, Lauren Kishman and Hailee Corlett purchased $300 in donations for the Shepherd of the Hills holiday shop. The money to purchase the gifts was collected through several Stu crew-sponsored holiday fundraisers. (Submitted photo)

After purchasing the gifts, Stu Crew members delivered them to Shepherd of the Hills, where they also helped organize other donations. (Submitted photo)

Lauren Kishman (left) and Ava Kishman prepare to distribute candy canes—one of the fundraisers Stu Crew developed this year. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

Shepherd of the Hills, in St. Olaf, held its annual Christmas Just 4 Kids Giveaway last week, an annual event that, through the generous donations of individuals, churches and organizations, stocks a holiday shop with a variety of gifts for local families in need. In addition to items like toys, games and books, all children were slated to receive pajamas, new pillows and pillow cases and a quilt or blanket.

This year, over 200 families and 450 children in Clayton County will benefit from Christmas Just 4 Kids. And the MFL MarMac Middle School Student Council, or “Stu Crew,” has once again played a part in making the season brighter for them all.

Beginning Nov. 26, the Stu Crew embarked on a series of holiday fundraisers, earning money that members would then use to purchase gifts for the holiday shop. 2018 marks the seventh year the group has supported the cause, and, to date, they’ve donated nearly $5,000 in gifts. 

The activities this year included the sale of Bulldog Christmas ornaments, as well as Wacky Wednesday dress-up days, where students paid $1 to dress in that week’s theme. 

For example, last week’s theme was “No Shoes, No Problem,” explained Stu Crew member Ava Kishman, so students were allowed to wear socks or slippers during the school day.

For $1, many students also purchased paper candy canes that they decorated and had sent to friends and classmates. Accompanied by a real candy cane, the token was a fun surprise for many to find in their lockers, said another Stu Crew member, Lauren Kishman.

The fundraisers have been well received, said Stu Crew adviser Stephanie Jones. The first dress-up week alone raised $115. Stu Crew sold out of ornaments, the idea was so popular. And, as of last week, over 100 candy canes had been purchased.

There’s an extra incentive for students to participate, since they can earn raffle tickets that will enter them into a drawing for prizes like bluetooth speakers, fancy earbuds and gift cards. But the Stu Crew members know there’s more to it.

“It shows that a lot of people are willing to help,” noted Lauren, “not just a small group.”

“It’s nice to know you’re part of something,” Ava added.

Last Monday, Stu Crew members put the funds to use, purchasing $300 in donations at Walmart. 

“We split up into groups, and each group had a budget of $100,” said Ava. “We picked out stuff we would want because it gave us an idea of what other people would want.”

That teenage perspective was important. 

“Gifts for teens is where [the holiday shop] has the biggest shortage,” Jones shared.

Lauren and Ava said Stu Crew members selected a good variety of items, from clothing, jewelry and makeup to crafts, young adult books, footballs and electronics.

Later in the day, the group took the gifts they’d purchased to Shepherd of the Hills, where they also helped organize other donations that had come in for Christmas Just 4 Kids.

“We sorted hats and gloves and sorted pajamas by size and for girls or boys,” Lauren detailed.

For the students, the whole experience—from raising the funds to purchasing and delivering the gifts—was meaningful.

“It’s just a good thing to do,” Lauren said. “It’s a nice thing to have for families who can’t afford gifts. It’s an opportunity for them to still have a good Christmas.”

Jones said the cause is even more meaningful because it can hit close to home: “We talk about how some of the kids who are going to benefit are right in our school district.”

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