In the three weeks since Hetrick made the challenge, the student body of 930 kids not only met the challenge but exceeded Hetrick’s expectations: “We’ve had about 2,000 items donated, and more is coming in. Each school in the district got two barrels – one for toys and one for food – but we needed a third barrel because we’ve been receiving so much. These kids are amazing.”
Hetrick said he’s not only impressed by the quantity of the donations but the quality as well. He originally asked students to go through their houses and find any non-perishable food items and gently used toys that could be contributed to the program, but the students have come through with thoughtful donations. Some students even made special shopping trips to buy items to donate to families in need.
“Holidays are historically about giving,” said Hetrick, “but over the years the holidays have become commercialized and the sense of goodwill has been lost. But the students have really come through to support the community Christmas basket program, and that’s what the season is really about. It’s about family and friends, and it feels good to give.”
The Friends of Oakley Christmas Basket Program is in its second year. After successfully providing food and toys to 125 Oakley families last year, the Friends set their goal to provide for 250 families this season.
Friends of Oakley Secretary Pat Anderson said she’s delighted by the student response at Delta Vista as well as the other six schools in the district. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the support from our schools. The students are filling those barrels and we have to empty them out often. It’s so nice to see that even our youngest community members are getting involved in this effort.”
Local grocery store Centromart has also jumped on the bandwagon, offering the Friends of Oakley discounted prices on basket items such as turkeys and fresh fruits and vegetables. The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano County is also helping provide food to be used in the baskets.
For the past three weeks, Friends of Oakley volunteers have been wrapping gifts for more than 600 children under the age of 18. Anderson said she and other Friends will go shopping this weekend, using the money raised during the Friends’ Wine, Cheese & Children’s Art fundraiser held earlier this year, to buy the rest of the toys to make sure every child gets at least one wrapped gift this holiday.
This year, the nonprofit organization is also reaching out to the senior citizen community and donating more than 50 grocery gift cards and gift baskets so that Oakley elders may enjoy a nice holiday meal as well.
“The Friends of Oakley want to provide for as many people in the community as we can,” said Anderson. “So far things are going well. It’s all coming together.”
The Friends of Oakley need volunteers to help with sorting and boxing food items for the Christmas baskets, which are to be distributed this weekend. Sorting begins Friday, Dec. 18 from 4 to 9 p.m. at the O’Hara Park Middle School gymnasium, 1100 O’Hara Ave. Sorting continues Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Volunteers are also needed for the distribution event Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. as well as for clean up following the event from 3 to 5 p.m.
“You can never have too many volunteers,” said Anderson. “If anyone has time to spare, we’d love the help. Whether it’s sorting and boxing or just checking expiration dates on the canned food – every little bit helps.”
For more information about the Friends of Oakley and its Christmas Basket Program, visit www.friendsofoakley.webs.com.