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WJMS taking donations for families in need

For West Jessamine Middle School, the last week before Christmas break is “go time” for Family Youth Service Centers as they work hard to finish preparing items with the hope to provide holiday assistance for 40 Jessamine County families this Christmas season.

The school is taking donations through Friday for nonperishable food items, toilet paper, laundry detergent, wrapping paper and board games to give local families, along with homemade goods, to help them feel connected this time of year

“Our senior student ambassadors, comprised of seventh- and eighth-grade leaders identified for their gifts in leadership along with our 4-H club members, have volunteered for projects which help keep our holiday support program running smoothly,” Nicole Markle, youth service center director for WJMS said. “They have organized gifts, handwritten Christmas cards and made holiday cookies and Christmas ornaments for our families among other things.”

Markle said the work the students are doing is made possible by partnerships with organizations in Kentucky, such as PAX Christi Catholic Church, Scatter Joy, Jessamine Christian Church, University of Kentucky Circle of Love Program, 4-H, the Jessamine County Health Department and anonymous individuals who sponsor families in the county.

Through these efforts, Markle said students were able to make the season brighter for 24 WJMS families. With working families under strain during the holiday season and nearly 50 percent of children in Kentucky living in low-income families, WJMS worked to choose families in need of a little extra holiday cheer through a collective collaboration with the JCS community, Markle said.

“West Jessamine Middle School is a community school that believes ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’” Markle said. “We are deeply concerned for the grandparents and relatives who are now raising children due to incarceration and addiction. Kentucky children living in foster care has reached a record high. Families are elected internally as staff and counselors build relationships with parents and guardians through our students.”

Local families, Markle said, will receive, at a minimum, gifts that meet their basic needs like warmth and hunger. By offering homemade cards, cookies and ornaments, families are able to decorate their homes. Through giving gifts such as board games, families are encouraged and given opportunities to enjoy their time together, Markle said.

“Two weeks away from school are challenging times for families who may have to choose to keep the electricity on or eating a nutritional meal,” Markle said. “Neighbors in our county are faced with these challenges, not just during the holiday season, but all year round.”

For some families, Markle said the holidays can be a time many take one step forward only to take two steps back. The Family and Youth Resource Center coordinators and student groups like the Student Ambassadors are around to cheer them on daily, she said.

“Our efforts to meet our parents where they are will include additional projects,” Markle said. “We are working to eliminate transportation barriers, plan family movie nights and connect families to clothing and support resources through the community.”