Many schools have created programs like “Shop with a Mustang” at Kennesaw Mountain High School in north Cobb to ease the holiday stress for families that don’t have the money to buy gifts.
Billy Richardson, an administrator at Kennesaw Mountain, said the school’s then–student body president came to him in 2004 saying she wanted to do something for the community.
“She said, ‘We need to give back to our future Mustangs,’” he said. “She came back with a plan, and that year we took about 100 kids shopping.”
Now, they take more than 250 children Christmas shopping each year.
Richardson said 457 students from Kennesaw Mountain are participating this year to help students from Hayes and Bullard elementary schools and Pine Mountain and McClure middle schools.
The school’s Student Government Association runs the program, raising approximately $45,000 for the annual event and working closely with the Kennesaw Business Association to get sponsors.
They also raise money by fundraising at Kennesaw-area events like a Taste of Kennesaw and the Big Shanty Festival.
“We want to teach students that it’s not just taking money from someone else,” he said. “You have to go out and earn it, and the reward is much bigger that way.”
At Kennesaw Mountain, the student guests will arrive at 8 a.m. Saturday to have breakfast with Santa Claus, go shopping at The Avenue West Cobb off Dallas Highway between 9:30 a.m. and noon, and return around 12:30 p.m. for lunch with Santa.
After lunch, students will be able to pick out four gifts from the apparel mart for their parents.
“We’re a unique creature, as we keep being told,” Richardson said. “Everything we do is based on character (education) and teaching our kids to be a part of something.”
Madison Olds, Kennesaw Mountain’s junior class president, has been participating in Shop with a Mustang since her freshman year.
“I thought it’d be a really good experience being able to help the community,” she said.
Her favorite part each year is the smiles student volunteers bring to the children’s faces.
“When they see a present they really like and I’m able to get it, it’s a great experience,” she said.
Schools that don’t have “Shop with” programs still find ways to give back.
Wheeler in east Cobb sets up a “Brumby Tree” in the administrative office. Students, teachers and parents pick an ornament with the age and gender of a child from the tree and purchase a gift for a Brumby student.
Osborne has a program called Communities in Schools that organized a food pantry this year to meet the needs of students and families throughout the school each year. The school is accepting non-perishable food donations and gift cards for the cause through Dec. 20.
The school’s JROTC has also set up their Angel Tree for the sixth year in a row. Similar to Wheeler’s “Brumby Tree,” staff and students can pick ornaments to purchase a gift for children at a local homeless shelter.
“With such a large population of our students considered low income and at risk, we find it overwhelming to be able to help all but that does not deter our efforts of helping some of our own,” said Deena Williams, a secretary at Osborne. “The heartwarming giving spirit is evident as we walk the hallways, and you see even the most in need are involved in helping other with whatever means they have available.”