Mt. Pleasant Area's toy program turns 20
It's their sheer sense of gratitude that gets Bill Barber every time.
As supervisor of the “Toys for Children” program held by members of Mt. Pleasant Area High School's student council, Barber said he is annually impacted by the thankfulness displayed by kids from financially distressed, district homes when Santa Claus places Christmas gifts into their unsuspecting hands.
“I just really enjoy it when you can tell that these children really, truly appreciate it,” said Barber, a social studies teacher at the school who has served as student council faculty sponsor and the program's supervisor since 2003. “They're so excited just to get the toys because they probably don't have some of the things other kids have at home.”
Now in its 20th year, the program will take place today beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the high school cafeteria.
At that time, children ages 2 to 11 whose families registered by a prior deadline will receive a brand-new, gift-wrapped toy purchased and prepared by council members earlier this month, Barber said.
The event is designed to provide a brighter holiday season to children of district residents who might otherwise struggle to buy gifts during the holiday season.
“A lot of families take what the kids get here home to put under the tree so there are more toys for them on Christmas morning,” Barber said. “The parents will thank us, too.”
Since the program was started in 1992, an average of 100 children benefit each year, Barber said.
Leading up to the annual distribution night, members of council such as Vice President Alison Adamrovich work hard to solicit donations which the students use to buy the toys at area stores.
“We go around at lunch time and collect money for about a week, then we go to a store with a list of names of children and their ages, and we buy gifts for them and wrap them,” said Adamrovich, a senior.
Since 2005, student council has purchased toys for more than 700 children of district residents with a total value of more than $15,000, Barber said.
In addition to receiving gifts, registered children are treated to snacks, drinks and a visit with Santa during the 1 1⁄2-hour program.
“I love watching the little kids opening their gifts because they're so happy to get them and meet Santa,” Adamrovich said. “It's just nice knowing that we're doing something in some small way to make their holidays happier.”
Sam Grubich, who taught American and world history instructor and served as chairman of the school's social studies department prior to his 2003 retirement, was oversaw the program prior to Barber.
“I would always have students walk with the children up to Santa's table,” he said. “I thought it was good. We always had a nice turnout.”
Grubich added that he fondly recalls watching students with musical talent play the piano and sing Christmas carols with the children each year.
“And if there was anyone who could play a horn or a guitar, they'd bring them along, too,” Grubich said.
When asked about the job Barber is doing in guiding the students' handling of the program since his departure, Grubich was approving.
“He's really done a nice job of moving it forward,” said Grubich of Barber's stewardship of the program. “And I think people in the community look forward this event each year.”
Particularly the ones whose names are on the gifts.
“There are some kids who have a lot of hardships today,” Grubich said.
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.