Volunteers bring cheer


Shefali Saboo and Brittany Wurnitsch

Holiday preparations keep families busy with shopping, decorating, and preparing grand feasts.  But many students are taking a moment to reach out to those in need.

Many Cal High clubs are more active than usual this time of year, as there are a multitude of ways to get involved, including caroling, fund raising, or simply volunteering.

One such club, Supply A Change, raises money for students’ school supplies in developing nations.

“Supply A Change celebrates the holidays by giving back to those who aren’t as fortunate as we are,” said senior Mekaleya Tilahun, the club’s president.

Supply A Change hosted a benefit concert on Dec. 7 to raise money for students in Ethiopia. School bands such as Minute2Midnight and Terminal Happiness performed.

The clubs Help Make A Wish and Music for a Smile raised money for the Make A Wish Foundation, which helps kids with life-threatening medical conditions.

“We will be going caroling for the second year in a row Dec. 21-23 in San Ramon and Danville,” said senior Megan Williams, Help Make A Wish club president. “After singing songs such as ‘Jingle Bells,’ and ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas,’ we ask for donations from each house.”

Last year, the club raised $1,780. On cold winter nights, members of this club give up the opportunity to sit in their warm homes drinking hot chocolate, in order to raise money for a cause.

Music for a Smile also visits the Alcosta Senior Center and hosts a mini holiday concert.

The club’s vice president, senior Leonard Haller, said the main goal is to spread cheery feelings to anyone in the Bay Area.

The Red Cross Club also helps out for the holidays.

“We will be asking for donations for those affected by Hurricane Sandy,” said senior Vida Barco, the club’s president.

In addition, the club makes holiday cards for veterans and members of the military.

“(It’s) our way of thanking them for their service to our country,” said Barco.

Cal’s National Honor Society also reaches out during the holiday season by continuing to tutor students, participating in Adopt-a-Family, and volunteering at the senior center.

“The holiday season is a time for happiness and fun, but it’s also a time to provide that feeling to those who are less fortunate,” said senior Sara Lashanlo. “It’s good to know that we made a family’s holiday season happier and more fun by giving them some gifts and necessities.”

Leadership classes have also been working harder during the holiday season, collecting donations for the Adopt-a-Family program, run by parent Cindy Schaer, who is part of the Parent Teacher Student Association. The $380 raised went to buy presents for a family that could not afford to give them.

“Being part of this program makes me realize what a generous community we are part of,” said Schaer. “I love seeing the leadership team so involved in the process.”

There were 39 other families at Richmond’s Wilson Elementary School, Cal’s sister school, available for other campus groups to donate to. Leadership’s adopted family included a young boy with a brain tumor.

“For a lot of the students, it helps motivate them to reach out and help as much as possible,” said first-year leadership adviser Scott Corso.

Three leadership officers, seniors Stephanie Smith, Jordan Lubarsky, and Jenna McNaughton, went out to purchase the gifts, some of which included blankets, jackets, and board games.

The presents were wrapped and then driven to Wilson on Dec. 10.  The students gave the presents to Wilson staff members, who distributed them to the needy families.

McNaughton enjoys seeing the kids’ expressions when they deliver the gifts.

“The kids look outside the window shocked and anticipating the gifts, not believing that  they are for them,” said McNaughten.  “I feel like Santa Claus.”

After dropping off gifts, leadership students stayed to hand out cupcakes and milk..  They also visited classes and played with students as recess.

“They won’t leave your side, even when they go to break,” McNaughton said.

Leadership students also brought clothing to the school for their organized jacket drive, which also supports Wilson students each year.

“Knowing that there are families out there that don’t even have enough money for coats during the winter is sad and makes me that much happier knowing I have the opportunity to bring happiness and warmth to a family that otherwise wouldn’t,” said Lubarsky.

Knowing Cal’s teachers are honored when luncheons are hosted for them, Corso suggested this year that leadership students bring baked dishes to provide Wilson teachers with a similar treat.

In addition to making an impact on a family’s holiday season, students recognize that they are impacted, too.

“It has helped me to appreciate how lucky we are to live in San Ramon and to be as privileged as we are,” said senior class president Kevin Pinney.