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Mt. Pleasant festival committee tips the toy scale

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 9:03 p.m.

Stacy Ukasik admits she can get “all the love” when the credit belongs elsewhere.

Such was the case recently when Ukasik — head teacher at Norvelt Elementary School specializing in kindergarten instruction — served as primary presenter of Christmas gifts to students from needy families courtesy of the Mt. Pleasant Glass & Ethnic Festival Committee.

The program provided 41 local students with Christmas gifts at Norvelt, Ramsay, Rumbaugh and Donegal elementary schools in the Mt. Pleasant Area School District.

“We had 10 (Norvelt) kids that got gifts this year,” Ukasik said. “They were so excited I got several hugs from students and the committee did all of the work, so I really got the good end of the deal.”

Established in 2009, the program is made possible with money raised during the annual Baby Photo Contest sponsored by Frock Childcare in the borough. The contest is held during the three-day festival each fall.

“We decided to keep it (the toy giveaway) as close to Mt. Pleasant as possible by focusing on the local elementary schools as a source to provide (lists of) children in need,” said Jeff Landy, Mt. Pleasant Borough Manager and committee co-chairman. “It has been very well-received by the schools.”

After the annual baby contest, committee officials contact Ukasik and other district employees including Frank Farrell — the student counselor at Ramsay Elementary School — and Jessica Kulyk — the student counselor at Donegal and Rumbaugh elementary schools — to acquire the lists.

“We are at approximately 50 percent economically disadvantaged,” said Farrell regarding the Ramsay students.

This year, the listed students each received one, wrapped toy purchased with $800 in donations raised during the contest, said Cindy Murdock, assistant director of Frock Childcare.

“I think the parents are grateful, from what the parents and teachers have told me,” Murdock said. “It's something we're glad we can do for the community.”

At Ramsay, where eight students between ages 8 and 11 received gifts as part of the program, the list Farrell received from teachers there of students in need was larger this year than in years past.

“It's unfortunate but, with the economy the way it is, you get more and more names every year,” he said. “We're really appreciative of this, and I know the parents are, too.”

Kulyk, who handed out gifts to 13 needy students at Donegal Elementary and 10 to ones attending Rumbaugh Elementary, said she admires the committee's efforts to brighten the holiday for so many kids.

“They're very generous to provide gifts to the students like this,” Kulyk said. “It just really helps out some of our families here in Mt. Pleasant and I know the families are very grateful for the donations.”

Landy also credited the staff at Walmart at Summit Ridge Plaza in East Huntingdon for selling the committee toys at a reduced cost to allow them to purchase ones for more children.

“They've been very good to us,” he said.

A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or