By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — It began with a short list of students at Whittier Regional Vocational High School who were destined to have a not-so-merry Christmas this year. Some teachers recognized that help was needed, so they spread the word and soon they’d compiled a list of 50 students who will be assured of having presents under their trees.
Teachers had approached Principal Maureen Lynch last month wanting to help an increasing number of students whose families are struggling this holiday season.
They founded the “Whittier Tech Holiday Fund” to make sure students in need would receive gifts during this holiday season. Since then more than $4,500 has been donated to the cause, including from UPS, whose workers in Chelmsford donated $2,000.
Many Whittier staff members donated money and a group has been busy shopping and wrapping gifts for students, school officials said. Contributions have also come from the Haverhill Kiwanis Club, which sponsors Whittier’s Key Club — a service/leadership project of Kiwanis.
Whittier staff planned to deliver the gifts to students’ homes on Dec. 20.
“We are very grateful to UPS and Kiwanis for thinking of us and our students,” Lynch said. “It is a difficult time for a number of families in our district and we want to make sure we all take care of one another. Their willingness to help is truly inspiring.”
The money is being used to buy clothing, including winter jackets, shoes and other needed items for students. The gift from UPS comes directly from its staff, said William Page, UPS Chelmsford Hub Training Manager. He visited Whittier on Thursday to present the check to Lynch and Superintendent William DeRosa.
Page said employees at the Chelmsford facility purchase snacks all year at a “United Way Cafe” where proceeds are donated to the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. They raise $25,000 each year and employees decide which charities will receive a donation.
Their contribution came about after Joseph Bevilacqua, president of the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce, contacted Cal Williams, senior development director for United Way, and a former employee of UPS, about the need.
“Joe keeps his thumb on the pulse of what’s going on,” Williams said. “He’s our champion in the Merrimack Valley.”
Williams donated an additional $200 to the Whittier fund, after he and his wife won a cash raffle at the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce Christmas party.
“I’m happy to do it,” Williams said. “With United Way, we adopt families and agencies and give out trees. We have many different projects going.
“This gave us a way to personally help students,’ Williams said about the donation to Whittier.
Bevilacqua, a member of Haverhill’s School Committee and a strong supporter of Whittier, said that “whatever you do for Whittier they appreciate and put to good use.”
“That’s why they do so well,” Bevilacqua said.
To donate, checks may be made out to “Whittier Tech Holiday Fund,” and mailed to: Kara Kosmes, business manager, Whittier Tech, 115 Amesbury Line Road, Haverhill, MA 01830.