South Butler Santas learn to stretch dollars while helping needy
Knoch High School juniors Kiley Hajek and Katie Gannon looked perplexed as they stood near a display of boys dress pants in the Target store in Cranberry Township.
“I really don't know,” Hajek said to her friend on a recent Friday as they tried to decide whether the pants would make it into their shopping cart.
Neither of them has experience buying kids' clothing. But as part of the South Butler Santas, they were tasked with shopping for boys ages 4, 13 and 17.
They were with 19 other girls in Knoch's Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) club shopping for the families who are beneficiaries of the district's South Butler Santas program.
The program accepts referrals of poor families in the district, then contacts the families to see if they want to participate.
They get a list of things the family needs, especially the kids, like clothing or shoes; as well as extras such as an iTunes gift card or cosmetics.
The beneficiaries remain anonymous. The shoppers choose items based on age and gender.
“I think it's a unique opportunity to do something that's impacting families in our own community,” said Hajek, 17, who has participated for three years.
“This is the thing that everyone talks about,” Gannon said. “So far, I'm having a lot of fun.”
As the student shoppers browsed, they took care to deliberate on what colors the kids they were shopping for might like and took time to put together matching outfits.
They price-checked each item to try to get the most for their money.
“I always like doing community work, and it's nice I can do it through the school,” said senior Celina Sanks, 17. “Especially around the holidays, it's nice to know I can help families.”
Started 30 years ago
South Butler Santas began 30 years ago as a home economics class project that benefited one family, said Lisa Knappenberger, South Butler Santas coordinator and high school gym teacher.
The project continued through the years and, as it grew to help more and more families, it eventually became a nonprofit organization.
“There were times when we were helping 75 kids,” Knappenberger said. “We don't do that many anymore just because things have gotten so expensive.”
The group spent about $6,200 on presents for 48 children in 22 families this year. Each child received between $100 and $150 worth of items, depending on age group.
Nearly every year since Knappenberger began overseeing the program, members have shopped at the Cranberry Target, which gives them a 10 percent discount. The students wrapped all the gifts that same day and Knappenberger delivered them early last week.
Senior Sarah Brasili, 18, president of the FCCLA club for three years, said the shopping trip is her favorite thing the club does all year.
“I love being able to help (the families) out,” she said. “They deserve it. Half the time, I want to get them more.”
Knappenberger said participating in South Butler Santas is an academic lesson in economics and a social lesson in the importance of compassion and service.
“I think for many of them they realize that they don't have it so bad,” Knappenberger said. “Some of the families say, ‘He didn't get anything new for school,' and I ask the kids if they can imagine that, because I don't think they really can.”
She said it's a reminder for her, too, about what's really important.
“We all get caught up in saying, ‘I want a new this or that,' ” she said. “It's a reminder of how fortunate we are, and it's not about the things that we have.”
Miranda McCune, 17, a senior, said each year the shopping trip makes an impact on her.
“It reminds me how truly blessed I am,” she said. “It makes me feel good to help these families and these kids at Christmas.”
More than the holidays
Despite their name, the South Butler Santas are active all year.
For example, if a teacher notices a student doesn't have what he or she needs for class, the teacher will reach out to South Butler Santas for help.
The group recently bought a cosmetology kit for a student who needed it for the course, Knappenberger said.
They also helped out with the cost for some seventh- and eighth-graders who couldn't afford to go on the middle school's annual trip to Gettysburg or Washington, D.C.
The group also helps in more personal ways.
“If we hear of a death of a parent, we immediately write a check — and it's a sizable amount — and send it to the family,” Knappenberger said. “We do that right away, before insurance monies are able to kick in.”
Or if a staff member's spouse is hospitalized and the employee is taking off work to be with him or her, the South Butler Santas will send them money to help with the cost of gas or parking, she said.
The group raises money year round, Knappenberger said.
South Butler Santas will be collecting at the Christmas choral concerts this week.
They get donations from alumni, retired teachers and local churches, she said.
This year, the Football Boosters donated the proceeds from one of its 50-50 raffles. South Butler Santas also has fundraisers like the Homecoming carnival and faculty dress-down days for a $3 donation.
“Somehow, it manages to take care of itself,” Knappenberger said.
Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Tractor-trailer crash cleanup closes stretch of Saxonburg Boulevard for more than 12 hours
- Apollo-Ridge school bus safety program aims to drive message home
- Indiana Township suspect accused of raping juvenile
- Buffalo Township grandma pleads guilty to selling hundreds of pounds of weed
- Police: New Ken drug suspect, Brandon Allen, used wrong name
- Harrison woman dead in 3-car crash in Natrona Heights
- Springdale to stick with police chief
- 7 in custody after New Kensington drug raid
- Upper Burrell man charged with sexually assaulting boy
- Cookies for Our Troops marches on