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Schools Help The Community
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Students at Oakdales East Stanislaus High School help load up a pickup bound for Oakdale Community Sharing with over 1,000 non-perishable goods they collected during a recent canned food drive. - photo by PHOTO COURTESY OF VICKI LUCAS

DeleteSome programs in Oakdale schools demonstrate caring and help others in the community all year round but during the holidays, the schools really step up their support.
All of the schools in the Oakdale Joint Unified School District host canned food drives each year and typically donate the items to Oakdale Community Sharing or the Spirit of Oakdale Thanksgiving dinner. The schools also do toy drives, coat drives, and a number of other programs and fundraisers in order to “give back.”
Some individual classrooms at the schools also take on their own community service projects each year, such as Tara Vandermark’s class at Fair Oaks Elementary School that has sold $1 candy cane “Candy Grams” for several years in order to purchase games, and once, a new television, for residents at the Oak Valley Care Center.
The character education program in the school district helps students discover and practice what makes up good, ethical values. The character education standards include learning about kindness, respect, honesty, generosity, and fairness to name a few. Volunteering time, money, or other resources is one of the ways that benefits the students and the community alike.
East Stanislaus High School, part of the district’s alternative education program, recently hosted a canned food drive. The small population of 85 students collected in excess of 1,000 cans over a two-week period. The cans were delivered to Oakdale Community Sharing in time for Thanksgiving, reported Alternative Education Principal Dennis Hitch.
“The first 15 cans delivered to the school were from a student that is homeless,” Hitch said. “One student and his mother delivered 245 cans that they collected from friends and neighbors. The parent stated that she and her son had been in food lines before and understood the needs of families.”
Oakdale High School also just finished a canned food drive, which benefited the Center for Human Services that opened earlier this year in Oakdale.
“…We collected 2,866 cans, and could not have achieved this without the loving devotion of (OHS) faculty and students,” said OHS leadership student Nicole Stastny. “To help inspire donations, we had a competition within the fourth period classes. The class that donated the most cans won a pizza party, and the teacher of that class won a $50 dollar gift card to Staples.”
OHS will next conduct a toy drive Dec. 5-9, also to benefit the Center for Human Services. The school is collecting unopened or gently used toys.
“We would love for the community to see what our school is doing to give back and to inspire them to participate themselves,” Stastny added.
OHS also has an ongoing project to help needy students at the high school called Veronica’s Care Closet, named in memory of teacher Veronica Patrone.
“At the beginning of the year the need is mostly school supplies, backpacks, and PE clothes, of which we had great donations this year and it was very successful,” said OHS Counseling Office Secretary Dana Hernandez. “During the holidays it seems to be more the food items. So we can always use food items to be distributed to needy families during the holidays.”
She added that they’ve had many donations to the Care Closet and it has become a “blessing” for the low-income students. This year jewelry that belonged to Patrone was sold, Hernandez said, and the profits went to the Care Closet to buy PE clothes for students. She noted that the donation was a great help as it’s always a challenge to meet that need.
Cloverland and Magnolia elementary schools both host paper bag drives to help out Oakdale Community Sharing. The local food bank gives out approximately 200 bags of groceries each week to Oakdale’s low-income families, so the paper bags are a welcome donation.
Students in Cloverland’s after school program decorate the placemats for the Oakdale Community Sharing breakfast, having done so for the past few years.
“It’s simple, but a neat way for us to show we care,” said Cloverland After School Program Manager Jarom Hofmann.
Magnolia and Sierra View elementary schools’ after school program students will make Christmas cards this year with art and a note to soldiers from the Oakdale area who are currently serving.
Linda Kraus’ class at Sierra View puts together hygiene kits every year and this year they were able to donate a large amount of bags of soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and dental products because of the generosity of many people, she reported.
“My students have been collecting toiletries for many years. Because of the overwhelming response from staff and students’ families, I have been able to make two deliveries per school year,” Kraus said. “…We always check with the high school to see if they need anything for the Care Closet first. They did not need any hotel-sized supplies this time, so our donations went to the Children’s Guardian Home.”
Running now through Dec. 13, Fair Oaks Elementary School is participating in the annual Holiday in a Shoebox project.
“It will start with students hearing parts of the story ‘Miracle in a Shoebox’ during their library time to kick off the project, and then each class having a shoebox for a boy and a shoebox for a girl in which they bring in small items for the box,” said Vice Principal Janet Hamby. “All of our shoeboxes will be delivered to Family Support Network.”
The school’s after school program manager Matt Dillon reported that they are hosting their second annual clothes drive Dec. 5-16 to benefit Family Support Network. They accept donations of pants, shorts, shoes, socks, shirts, jackets, sweatshirts, blankets, and toys.
Oakdale Junior High School has a program in place called KIND (Kids In NeeD) to provide school supplies and meet other needs throughout the year for low-income junior high students. OJHS World History teacher Micki Dias heads up KIND and organizes its annual fundraiser where staff plays the eighth grade basketball teams, typically played in March.

This is the second in a three-part series dealing with assistance to those in need in the community. Look for a feature on how area churches do their part in the Dec. 7 issue of The Leader.