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Elder High School offers a holiday helping hand

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Friday, December 18, 2009

By Mike Dyer

ST. LAWRENCE DEANERY — Elder High School students and faculty members have been truly living the Gospel message this holiday season through the school’s annual food and toy drive.

For more than 30 years, the all-boys school has sponsored a drive that collects food and toys for those in need in the community. The items are boxed to meet the needs of the families whose names have been provided by five service agencies in the area.

An estimated 245 families — a record number — from the Cincinnati’s west side to downtown will benefit from the donations this year.

Pete Bachman, left, a senior at Elder, teacher Mark Klusman, and sophomore Cameron Kelley pose with some of the collected toys. (Courtesy photo)

Roger Auer, Elder’s director of campus ministry, said the drive started in the mid-1970s. Auer has been associated with the drive in a leadership role for the past 15 years.

“People — certainly at Elder — respond when there is a need,” he said. “It’s a nice thing to do around Christmas, and it’s a gift we are capable of doing.”

Auer said a significant percentage of faculty members and about 400 students are expected to participate in the drive in a variety of roles.

“We all know that many of life’s greatest lessons are often learned through experience,” said Tom Otten, principal. “Therefore, by actually delivering the toys and food to the families we not only stand in their stairwells, but we also witness their reactions. This makes it worthwhile. It is what we call a teachable moment, where life lessons are imprinted.”

Elder technology instructor and alum Mark Klusman said the drive is an opportunity for those in the Elder community to appreciate the blessings they have received throughout the year.

“Like most things in life, you can’t appreciate what you have until you realize what others do without,” he said.

Klusman takes a couple of students with him on delivery day and said the experience is a life lesson to many of the students. On Dec. 8 the students raised almost $3,700 for an out-of-uniform day at the school; those proceeds will be donated to the drive.

Klusman said the people receiving the food and toys are genuinely thankful. He said it’s a good example of how students and faculty are spreading the Gospel message through the delivery of the items and praying for those in need.

“I think the neatest thing is being exposed to different lifestyles than what you are used to seeing,” Klusman said.

For several weeks prior to the holidays, the Elder community boxes up the items and prepares them to be shipped to families who are in contact with with Santa Maria/East Price Hill, Santa Maria/Sedamsville, St. Michael Center in Lower Price Hill, the Contact Center in Over-the-Rhine and the Mercy Home Program in Walnut Hills. Each family receives a turkey or ham along with other food items and toys that are appropriate to the ages of the children.

“The food and toy drive is just one example of how Elder is involved in its own neighborhood,” said Pete Bachman, a senior at Elder. “We’re helping hundreds of families who live within a couple of miles of the school.”

The drive began in mid-November and ends with the delivery of the boxes to families on Dec. 22. The bleachers of the gym are filled with numbered boxes corresponding to the families who receive them. Following an early dismissal from school, students will deliver boxes themselves or accompany faculty on their mission to send out the items.

“My parents have always taught me to help others, so when an opportunity comes along, it just feels natural,” Elder sophomore Cameron Kelley said. “I also do it because it makes me feel good to know I’m making a difference.”

In order to raise additional funds to purchase food and toys, several businesses around Elder are selling Christmas mugs. The mugs are $5 each and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the drive. Mugs can be purchased at Baron Engraving, Grote Barber Shop, Price Hill Chili, the Elder Spirit Store and the Elder Alumni Office.

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