The holiday season has begun, which means people start to prepare for the season of giving. Families rush the stores to find the latest technology and gifts for their loved ones. For some people, however, economic hardships limit their ability to buy gifts, decorations and food for a Christmas dinner.
According to datausa.io, a research website that provides public U.S. Government data, Columbia has a poverty rate of 24.4 percent, which is above the national poverty rate of 14.3 percent.
The Key Club, along with the Voluntary Action Center (VAC) and executive director of the VAC Nick Foster, will participate in the 2017 “Adopt a Family” holiday program. The program will pair families in need with groups or individuals who want to provide for those families for the holidays.
Vice president of the Key Club Henry Wilson recognizes the need for giving back to the community and families in crisis but thinks the effects spread further than just the families on the receiving end, which is why the Key Club decided to volunteer.
“Giving back to the community is so important to our school because the act of giving back builds positive characteristics in the students who do,” Wilson said. “These students use those positive characteristics throughout their lives to improve their lives and the lives around them.”
Wilson reiterates the idea of donating to charities during the holiday season, but also sees closer options for students who want to donate.
“Students can give back to the community in numerous ways outside of school,” Wilson said. “But there are also several clubs [at RBHS] to join that meet every month.”
Students can provide for the community outside of school by volunteering or donating to charities like the Food Bank, the Salvation Army, the Ronald McDonald house, etc.
Led by Foster, the VAC is a non-profit organization that focuses on “helping low-income individuals and families bridge the gaps between crisis and stability and improve quality of life in Boone County,” according to the charity’s mission statement.
Families with financial burdens were able to sign up for the holiday program from Sept. 5 to Oct. 13, to see if they qualify by contacting the VAC. Groups or organizations wishing to sponsor one of these families can also sign up via the VAC.
“[Families in need] come in, they give us information that we ask for in terms of income, residency, and identification, and then we have them fill out a form and we accept [families that qualify],” Foster said. “We have groups like offices, families, and or church groups that take that family and the wish-list that the family [in need] provides through us, and they go do things for the family.”
The VAC mission statement tied directly into why the Key Club decided to pair alongside with the VAC, and although the Key Club is made up of students at RBHS, the giving nature is not limited to students. In fact, a group of faculty and staff came together to support a struggling family.
“When we learn of families in need, we try our best to help, in whatever way we can,” said assistant principal Lisa Nieuwenhuizen. “The response from RBHS faculty and staff was amazing. This group came together to help families in need, going back to the idea that we are a big family at RBHS, and family takes care of each other.”
The VAC works year round, and although giving back to the community is always important, Foster believes the holiday season adds a special meaning to the act of giving.
“We all discover when we give to other people that are struggling that we gain a lot from that as well. There’s a good feeling that comes with it, but there are a number of people in our community that struggle, so it’s important that we do what we can to support them,” Foster said. “The holiday program is one of the ways that we can do that, along with a lot of other ways as well, but this is an important thing to happen, especially during this time of the year.”