Oak Knoll Ushers in the Christmas Season by Serving Those Most in Need

oak knoll lower school Christmas outreachThis month, the Oak Knoll community is making Christmas spirits bright for neighboring children and families in need.

For the past month, both the Lower and Upper schools have been busy dedicating time to organizing special Christmas service programs that are sure to bring a little extra holiday magic to others.

In the Lower School, all PK-6 Lower School homerooms collected non-perishable food items. The younger classrooms were busy assembling Christmas dinner baskets for the students and families in need at Sacred Heart School in Jersey City.

On Thursday, December 10, 2020, the Lower School delivered 15 giant tubs filled with food to Sacred Heart School. Some of the collection items in their Christmas dinner baskets included canned ham, boxed potatoes, corn, hot chocolate, desserts and more.

This marked the largest amount of meals OKS has collected to date for families in need at Sacred Heart School.

“As a volunteer myself at Sacred Heart for many years in a few different capacities, including an annual summer program with our Upper School girls, I have grown to know and love many of the students whose families will directly benefit from your generosity,” said Meg Watkins, Lower School Assistant Division Head. “Sacred Heart sends along their deep appreciation and gratitude for their friends at Oak Knoll, as do I!”

Parent coordinators of Oak Knoll’s sixth-grade classrooms also helped to serve others, by sorting, gathering and distributing materials to the students to make Christmas tree ornaments and packages for senior citizens.

On Sunday evening, both sixth-grade classrooms plan on Zooming together to craft their ornaments. Sixth graders will enjoy a goody bag treat and plan on playing a trivia game during the call as well.

“During this pandemic, our senior citizen population has been especially hard hit by this crisis in terms of isolation,” said Leslie Smith, Grade 6 level leader and social studies teacher. “It is especially gratifying, during this holiday season, to see our sixth graders reaching out, to let those in our community who are most vulnerable, know that people care about them. It really speaks to the commitment to service that is part of the fabric of the Oak Knoll community.”

Oak Knoll’s middle and high school students have also been spending the weeks leading up to Christmas by serving others through two different programs.

Upper School students are participating in a Secret Santa-like program called Advent Angels. Both Upper School students attending school in person as well as virtually, are paired within their grade levels and encouraged to make a donation to either Casa Cornelia Law Center or Bridges Outreach in honor of her Advent Angel.

Next week, before the Christmas break, Upper School students are scheduled to receive “reveal cards” to find out who their Advent Angels are.

“At Oak Knoll, Christmas is a very special time of year,” said Michele Van Kalsbeck, theology teacher and member of the campus ministry program. “The holidays are so much more about giving than receiving.”

Faculty, staff, and the rest of the Oak Knoll community were also encouraged to take part in the Upper School’s Christmas outreach program.

With the Christmas outreach program, community members are paired up with an elder, foster child, family or victim of domestic violence, and are asked to purchase a wrapped gift for them based on their age, needs, and wants.

These participating nonprofits include: Linden Housing Authority (elderly), CASA of Union County (foster children), New Community (families), Pierre Toussaint Food Pantry (families), and Babyland (shelter for victims of domestic violence).

“We could not be prouder of our school for rallying together to help our neighboring children, families, elderly and victims of domestic violence who are struggling this Holiday,” said Van Kalsbeck, coordinator of this year’s Advent Angel and Christmas outreach activities. “I’m thrilled to be able to assist efforts for our school community to serve others and so glad to watch our students serve others through their actions.”

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