‘Santa’s helpers’ busy at Meadowbrook School
Meadowbrook Elementary School fifth-grader Blake Silverman (left), 10, sizes up a necklace she's making on classmate Lindsay Bell, 11, while Maria Petrova, 11, and Celia Giles, 10, also work on crafts. They plan to sell the crafts to raise money for gifts
Updated: January 21, 2013 2:34PM
NORTHBROOK — Although it may not appear so to the mortal eye, Meadowbrook Elementary School turns into Santa’s workshop this time of year.
And the students, most of whom are of diminutive stature, resemble countless elves scurrying around to make “Operation Santa” come to life.
Fifth graders adopt a needy family during the project, as they have for more than a decade. But it takes the entire school to make the project successful.
The fifth graders have been working on various craft projects — such as sand art, homemade jewelry, scarves and bookmarks — in school and out, and on Dec. 17 they sold their handiwork to others in the building.
They also conducted a used book sale Dec. 12 with books selling for between 25¢ and $2.
In the past, students raised $1,000, with as much as $3,600 being collected one year, said Fifth Grade Teacher Stacey Verne. She began the project after hearing that the U.S. post office had letters to Santa from children who were asking for items some suburban families took for granted.
“I used to get letters from the Post Office, which started out ‘Dear Santa.’ That’s why we call it ‘Operation Santa’ and we became Santa’s helpers,” Verne said. “We’ve raised money in lots of different ways and then have gone shopping. In the last two or three years, I’ve had my whole team, three other fifth grade classrooms, join me. And we’ve been taking on more families.”
Last year, Santa’s helpers came to the aid of three families numbering 34 people. This year, they also will help three families with 13 children ranging from one to 13 years old. Each person will receive gifts totaling about $100. The gifts include coats, hats, boots, snow pants, underwear and a couple of toys. Sometimes there is even furniture and bedding. If any money is left over, it will go into gift certificates that are good at a local grocery store.
“I have connections to a Chicago Public School principal. After talking to a case worker, I received the names of three very, very, very needy families,” Verne said.
“The students love doing this. I even have students who have left come back and ask if they can help. It’s a memory they never forget. Some of them have been with me when I’ve delivered and I will never forget the looks on their faces when they’ve seen the families’ circumstances.”
Evan Denenberg said the project was a great idea, because he “got to help others while having fun making things myself.”
Allanah Elster said she wants her efforts to result in a needy family having the necessities to celebrate the holidays, because she wanted both the parents and the children to be happy.
Liam Rude wanted his work to bring the families “warmth for the holidays, as well as what they wanted and needed.”
And Cami Rosenzweig, noted that she wanted the children to get “everything they want to keep them happy.”
“Operation Santa is a great way for our students to work together and make a positive difference for less fortunate children,” said Meadowbrook Principal Pat Thome.
“Our school mantra each day is: Be a good person, be good student and be a positive leader, so this experience is the perfect opportunity for our students to show their leadership… Operation Santa brings out the best in them.”