By Amanda Tonoli
When Maureen Donofrio, a Rayen Early College Middle School teacher, brought a bag of clothes for charity into her class, she never expected to inspire a schoolwide charity program.
Two years ago, Donofrio collected clothes she did not wear for donation and brought the bag into her class to see if any of her students wanted anything she was going to give away.
As students looked through the bag, Donofrio said her ears perked up to the word “gift.”
It appeared her students weren’t looking for themselves, but for their families instead.
The students’ generous attitudes sparked Donofrio’s interest to create a program fueled by donations for students to collect and distribute among one another.
Now, the program collects donations from not only teachers and students within the school but also from community members, too.
“It’s nice to think that people we don’t even know had the heart to donate to kids who are in need,” said Brianna Figueroa, 12. “People have such a kind hearts.”
Bryan Estrada, 14, agreed.
“I think it was pretty amazing a lot of people gave stuff to give students who actually need it,” he said.
Because about 100 people contributed items to the program, the number of contributions allowed every REC student, nearly 200, to select 15 items each for friends and family.
“These are just such great kids we have here, and I’m so happy to see this grow bigger and better each year,” Donofrio said.
Students shared her enthusiasm.
“There was a lot of stuff to choose from – books, clothes, lip gloss and everything,” said Desiree Copeland, 15.
Omyja Jackson, 12, said the donation and distribution of gifts brought together both students and teachers for a common cause.
“It makes us feel happy to give our families something,” she said.
Jermele Tillis, 12, said helping the effort really brought out his “Christmas cheer.”
“There are not a lot of opportunities out there [to help], and [Donofrio] made one because she took the time to do something like this,” he said.
Alexairyas Rosario, 11, appreciated just being able to get presents that don’t require money.
“It’s really helpful,” she said. “I liked seeing other people just be able to grab things to take home for Christmas. It feels nice.”