hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

December 21, 2011

Students donate food, gifts to struggling families

By Tim McCarthy

The students of the Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School want to make sure Santa Claus is coming to all children of Haverhill.

The Whittier Tech Key Club donated about 75 gifts for the Greater Haverhill Salvation Army's Christmas Castle, in addition to raising $1,000 for food vouchers.

Key Club members dressed up as elves in Santa's workshop on Dec. 20 at Christmas Castle in the Pentucket Bank community room, located at 1 Merrimack St., to hand out the gifts to Haverhill families who would have otherwise gone without.

Key Club members said the spirit of the season crept into their hearts.

Club President Regan Milmore, 17, originally planned to pick up just one book from Barnes and Noble to give away as a donation, but ended up purchasing four books instead to give away as a gift pack.

"I kind of went a little overboard," she said. "If there was ever a time to splurge, it's now."

Even as the fun activities associated with the holiday season begin to wind down, Milmore said she's looking forward to keeping the club's outreach strong through other programs in the coming months.

"Every little thing you do makes a difference," she said.

"Going out and seeing those people really makes their day,'' she said of students meeting less fortunate people. "It's a life-changing experience."

Club advisor Katie Dye said this is the 15th year the Whittier Tech Key Club has given more than $1,000 in donations to local charities during the holiday season.

She noted community outreach programs such as the Christmas Castle help make the club's mission of community service mean far more than impersonal charity drives or donations do.

"The more trips we make out to the community, the more real we can make their service," she said. "This is a very special project for the kids to connect with the community."

More than 35 students take part in the Key Club program at Whittier Tech.