Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

With Christmas fast approaching, many individuals are making their lists. Lists of what they want, lists of what others want and what Christmas supplies still need to be bought.
The anticipation of what gifts lie beneath the tree begins to fill the air as everyone’s excitement for Christmas day grows.
But, what about those individuals who wake up Christmas morning without a pile of gifts under their Christmas tree?
Three years ago, Bellwood-Antis 11th grade POD students asked that same question and decided to do something to help make a difference in the lives of these families.
Crystal Himes, the Junior Achievement representatives from M&T Mortgage Bank, initiated the “Blue Angels ‘R’ Us” project in 2002, with the help of B-A POD teacher, Andrea Brant, in an effort to provide a better sense of community service and a clearer understanding of the economic atmosphere in the area.
The project began by helping one family during the Christmas season and grew to help 10 families last year. This year, 15 families in the Bellwood and Tyrone areas will be touched by the kindness of B-A juniors.
Himes said, “We were able to help 15 families this year, up from the 10 we helped last year, because of the overwhelming response we received.”
For the fourth holiday season, students have been busy collecting food, new clothing and toys, as well as numerous useful household items.
According to a press release regarding this year’s project, “information is organized in the strictest of confidence regarding the families. The students learn how important it is to care for their fellow man and help them learn how good it feels when they do something good for someone less fortunate than themselves.”
New this year is the inclusion of Myers Elementary and Bellwood-Antis Middle School.
“We had a wonderful year,” said Himes, “We involved Myers Elementary and the middle school along with the high school.”
In addition to donated items, students were given the opportunity to choose a “wish list” item. Participating families created their wish list of items they would like to receive this Christmas. Students then had the opportunity to choose one of these items, valued at approximately $10, to purchase for that individual.
Students were also able to participate in the annual shopping event on December 5 at Walmart in Altoona, where the remaining items were purchased.
Once all the food, toiletries, clothing and other items were organized, student volunteers stayed after school last Thursday to wrap all the gifts, which will be delivered by Himes on Christmas Eve.
This year’s participants agreed that by helping others, it gave them a feeling of happiness and goodwill towards their fellow man and also made them proud they were able to give back to the community.
Many students noted that it’s in giving that they truly experienced the spirit of Christmas.
“It felt really nice to help these kids,” said Brittany Umstead.
“It was a good experience because of what we did for the people,” said Mike Guinard, “It felt good because they don’t have anything.”
Those involved with this year’s project want to extend their thanks to everyone who generously contributed to making the 2005 Blue Angels program a success.
Himes expressed her gratitude toward the administration, saying, “The B-A Superintendent and principals really supported the program, which really enabled the kids to do this.”

By Rick