It is a sight to see – rows and rows of large black bags fill two rooms each December at Frisco ISD Transportation West.
“There are so many volunteers who give so much,” said Debbie Henegan, board member of local non-profit With Love it’s a Small World. “People give their heart and soul and their time. It’s pretty incredible.”
Each year, the charity’s Angel Program supports hundreds of struggling Frisco area families.
Frisco ISD employees, students and parents join with local businesses and organizations to make the holidays bright for less fortunate children in our community.
“You just don’t realize how much need there is right here in our backyard,” Henegan said.
This year, nearly 1,500 needy FISD students and their siblings will benefit from the program.
“I’m a single mom on a single income,” said one mother. “Whatever I can give my daughter is what she’s going to get, so this is a huge help.”
Since October, volunteers have worked to interview families, share the “needs” and “wants” of angels and collect and organize thousands of dollars worth of donations.
“These are the kids who go to school with our kids,” said Lone Star High School parent Kelley Azzarito, one of several longtime volunteers who spend days sorting through donations. “Each kid is your own. You don’t know their name, but you know their number. You take ownership because you want your kids to get what they want and need.”
All the hard work paid off this week as families came to pick up the gifts.
“I’m very happy because the kids don’t have a bed,” said one parent, as volunteers loaded two twin mattresses into a truck. “There should be more people like this.”
Among the clothes, toys and other donations were hundreds of gift cards and about 300 bikes, or enough to fill seven semi trailers.
“Words can’t express the gratefulness and gratitude toward the people who give and volunteer,” said another mom, who has donated to the program in the past. “Money was an issue this year, when money hasn’t been an issue before, so this will make a big difference.”
Small World founder Thamara Millan, an ESL teacher at Maus and Roach middle schools, has watched the program grow dramatically since 1996.
“I made it my mission to connect the right people,” she said. “There are these little moments that remind us why we do this year after year. It truly is a labor of love. We love what we do.”
One such moment came Wednesday afternoon, when Athena Mitchell came to pick up donations for her six-year-old daughter Alaithia, a special needs student at Sem Elementary.
Alaithia’s teacher, Amy Brock, had made a toy using PVC pipe specifically with Alaithia in mind. Known as an object bar, Brock hung various items and noisemakers of different colors and textures to help stimulate the senses and promote learning.
“I was speechless when I saw this,” Mitchell said, drying her tears. “It’s difficult to find the right things and the time and effort that went into this, it blew my mind. This is a wish that you don’t know how to explain. Alaithia is going to have the time of her life with this.”