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BHS students give in holiday style

BY STEVE DEDUAL

For the Bremeretomn Patriot

With Christmas less than a month a way, Santa’s been pretty busy lately and he understandably needed a little help.

That’s where the Bremerton High School Club recently stepped in as its members delivered a mountain of stuffed animals to groups serving families in need during the holiday season.

BHS Key Club advisor Nora Zollweg, who is also a Central Kitsap Kiwanis Club member, got the idea three years ago and club members have kept the mountains growing ever since.

“These are student leaders,” Zollweg said. “They don’t need me.”

The chairperson for the activity was Anna Maeng andwith the help of a few other members, she “ran the show,” Zollweg said.

“They are learning leadership skills,” she said. “And then they will get to go with us to disperse, and that feels so good to them to see the client and to get the thank yous.”

Yesterday the club delivered 75 toys which they hand-picked to have no buttons or zippers that could possibly cause a hazard to the young children at the Holly Ridge Center.

Roxanne Bryson, executive director of the center, said that the Central Kitsap Kiwanis Club has been providing Christmas cheer to them for more than 25 years and the high school club has helped them a great deal the last three years as well. Their annual party, Dec. 19 this year, will include a photo with Santa and the children’s family members are invited to come join in the fun.

“This place is going to be rockin’,” Bryson said. “We expect even grandmas and grandpas to come.”

The students have also allotted some of the smaller toys to the Bremerton Foodline to be dispersed in their annual Christmas baskets this year.

Monica Bernhard, executive director of the foodline program, Bremerton High School graduate and former Key Club president, said she was in charge of the food drives the Key Club had when she was in high school and so it has been a joy to work with the students on this project.

“Groups like the Key Club are an important part of the tapestry of life,” Bernhard said.

The Bremerton Foodline will serve 725-750 families this Christmas and their baskets will be distributed Dec. 19-21.

The remainder of the toys, Zollweg said, will be divided between Harrison Hospital and the YWCA’s ALIVE shelter, which houses victims of domestic violence.

YWCA of Kitsap County executive director Linda Joyce said she was grateful to the students for their effort.

“We find that in many of the cases of families that we do see, the children have had to take on some very adult roles,” Joyce said. “The family may have had to move around quite a bit. They may have had to change schools quite a bit. It could be because of domestic violence or for any number of reasons, but a stuffed animal, oh my God, it just makes such a tremendous difference,” she said.

Joyce said she is proud to see kids in the community stepping up and to know the future leaders of our community are showing everyone the way.

“The Key Club serves not just a purpose, but a mission, and that mission is to help others in the community, especially the children,” Joyce said. “They are setting an example.”

Joyce said there are still many children who will not feel the joy of opening a gift on Christmas Day or who will need to grow up a little faster to understand the circumstances their families have been pushed into, but there is help for them, and with the Key Club’s assistance, maybe a little hope.

“It breaks my heart to think that there are children out there who don’t get to celebrate birthdays and holidays like other children do, but fortunately our families here are able to do that thanks to the Key Club and other organizations like it,” she said.

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