Purchase photos

Students wrap up semester with wrapping

12/20/2013

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

Friends and family of Max Stieben might be in for a surprise when they open gifts this Christmas.

The ones from Stieben might not be in a gift bag, but instead could be given in a neatly wrapped package.

The Hays High School junior learned how to wrap gifts the old-fashioned way this year -- with rolls of wrapping paper, a pair of scissors and a roll of Scotch tape.

He also participated in an even more traditional activity, one as old as Christmas itself -- giving to others.

Stieben was one of more than a dozen students in the National Honor Society at Hays High School wrapping gifts for needy families Sunday afternoon.

The best part about these gifts is they aren't being shipped overseas or even to another state or city. Instead, they are going to families of Hays High students.

For years, guidance counselors and other staff members have gotten together at Christmas to help families of HHS students that might otherwise not have any gifts.

Approximately 10 years ago, when Lisa Colwell took over as the NHS sponsor, she asked to take over the project for her students.

"I looked at the (NHS) rules and saw the requirements," said Colwell, who noticed service projects on the list. "I thought this would be perfect."

Since then, 10 families are the recipients of several gifts, including Christmas trees and decorations. The families are not on public assistance but might be struggling financially at the time. Their names remain anonymous, with only administrators and guidance counselors knowing their identity.

The NHS members gather donations from staff, and numerous businesses and organizations are generous with donations ranging from food items and clothing to gift cards and cash.

The families -- which are identified by Family 1, Boy 1, Mom 1, etc. -- give the counselors a wish list.

And Colwell gathers students to go on a shopping spree.

"Checking out was interesting," said senior Reagan Kaiser, one of four students who shopped from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday along with their teacher.

"We had four carts, had our own little train," added classmate Jensen Boys, another all-day shopper, as were senior Jessie Carmichael and junior Brittney Dannels.

"We have our strategies," Colwell admitted, a twinkle in her eye.

Colwell keeps a lookout for potential gifts all year long and kicks her shopping into full gear on Black Friday, taking advantage of bargains the day after Thanksgiving.

Included in donations is enough food for a full meal for each family, toothbrushes and bedding and bath towels, clothing and shoes.

Each family will receive 10 to 13 gift boxes, in addition to food items, Colwell said.

"People are really generous," she said. "All you have to do is ask."

Principal Marty Straub and other administrators take two days to deliver the gifts.

Before the students put on their elf hats in the school library Sunday, Colwell hosted a session on how to wrap the gifts.

"Oh, yeah, I teach them how to wrap," she said. "Some have never wrapped gifts before."

One of those was Stieben.

"I usually just put them in a bag," Stieben said of gifts for his family. "So I learned something. It's been a lot of fun, and it's (for) a good (cause)."

Indeed.

"The things they put on their (wish) list are necessities," Colwell said of the families. "There are no iPods or video games. It's things like jeans and shirts. It's pretty humbling."