The students at Hope Lutheran School have been very busy this holiday season with many events and activities celebrating the spirit of Christmas; the elementary musical, preschool and kindergarten advent performance, Sounds of Christmas concert, caroling at Bridgepark, (a senior living facility) and a Christmas drama performance. However, spreading the Christmas message hasn’t stopped here. Hope students have worked together with Elissa Sommer, Human Care Ministry Director at Hope Church, to take the Christmas message and spirit of giving to the local community of West Seattle through adopting families for Christmas, a long time tradition at Hope Church.
Every Christmas season Elissa pairs each classroom with a family in the local area, providing them with a list of family members, along with their needs and wants for Christmas. The students and their families collect items for those on the list and then the students wrap them as a class. Every item is wrapped and decorated with bows and ribbons for a festive look as if they were wrapping a gift for one of their own family members.
While the identity of the families are kept confidential, Elissa shares information such as how many family members there are, their gender, age and needs and wants. This gives students and their families a more personal connection to the family that is receiving and a chance to reflect on the blessings in their own life. Boys and girls who enjoy Captain America or Hello Kitty are excited to buy for other boys and girls that like similar things, making it more personal for them. And, they are also serving the community that they shop and attend church and school in.
The spirit of giving has made quite an impact on students, as one 5th grader demonstrated in an impromptu lunch time blessing, “Dear Jesus, Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to give gifts to those in need. May God Bless them.”
Elissa is made aware of families in need through social workers or counselors working with local public elementary, middle schools and high schools. Counselors pick up the family gifts and deliver them to the families before Christmas. Approximately, 1500 to 2000 gifts were wrapped by students and volunteers this Christmas season for the community of West Seattle!
One other way in which Hope students have made an impact this Christmas season is through giving to World Vision. Sarah Kunkel, 7th grade math and Faith teacher, challenged her students to be the change in someone else’s life and give of their own finances to affect change in another part of the world. The students contributed $343 of their own money to purchase 2 goats, 4 chickens, 15 ducks and 2 rabbits which will help families in Africa create a better life.
The human care ministry team provides not only gifts at Holiday time, but food, services, clothing, bus tickets, visits to seniors, single mom gifts, and much more throughout the year. The food drive that Hope student council members organized provides others much needed food to get them through the week. 1485 pounds of food was collected and divided up between the local food bank, school and church families and to a West Seattle public school in order to provide food bags over the Thanksgiving holiday. For these kids, the bags of food are the only food their family receives to get them through the weekend.
The annual Giving Tree set up in the church Commons held 317 tags, 200 of which were taken by Hope parishioners. The remaining tags were shopped for by 14 shoppers on one day at the Walmart Superstore in Auburn with money donated by Hope Lutheran church parishioners and friends. Walmart welcomed them with signs for their shopping carts, and helped Elissa keep items organized using clear bags.
School is now officially on Christmas break, all the gifts and food have been distributed, families prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and the spirit of giving and helping others will continue to be one of the many ways in which Hope Lutheran Church and School supports and loves the community of West Seattle.