Waterford students provide baskets to IRC during Week of GivingFeb 18, 2021 01:49PM ● By Julie Slama
Waterford students spent a week gathering winter clothing, personal hygiene items and tied fleece blankets for newly arrived refugee families. (Amanda Apple/Waterford School)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
Thirteen newly arrived refugee families will be a little warmer and feel more welcome, thanks to Waterford School’s students providing baskets of supplies and hand-tied fleece blankets.
As part of Waterford’s All Schools Week of Giving, Nov. 30 through Dec. 4, 2020, students in all grades could take part in bringing in donated items or tying fleece blankets to benefit those who have just arrived in Utah through their contributions to the International Rescue Committee (IRC), said Isabel Hiestand, Waterford community service club president.
“We encouraged volunteering and saw an immense turnout to help these 13 families,” said Hiestand, who tied five blankets with a friend for the families.
She said students in each of the upper grades were asked to make donations of winter clothing and personal hygiene items, if they were able. The blankets were assigned to elementary students, but anyone or any family could tie them. As a result, there were more than 100 blankets made, she said.
“We’ve learned that we have so much, and these families are so grateful for the kindness we’re sharing,” she said.
Waterford has helped the IRC for years and it usually includes the Joni Jenson Dinner, which was named for a Waterford parent who died while her daughter was a student at the school. Typically, at the dinner, students interact with the families and learn about them.
Senior Kate Parker said that usually is the highlight of the week.
“I love playing with the kids and hearing their stories, their dreams and where they come from,” she said. “I love to be able to give them things they need to make it a happier, better, easier winter season, especially this year during COVID-19.”
However, with following the pandemic health and community guidelines, the dinner was not held, said Ingrid Warner, who is the club’s staff adviser.
“It’s a really special part of the week that we were missing; we value our partnership with IRC and it’s mutually beneficial,” she said.
Thus, this year, the Week of Giving looked a little different. Club organizers made announcements, but so did Warner and Waterford parent Bethany Jones, who is involved with the IRC.
Warner shared with students the meaning of nonprofit, explaining that both Waterford and the IRC are nonprofits and they rely upon, in part, donations. She also defined philanthropy as a way that helps both the received and the giver, and how on Giving Tuesday, which fell in the school’s Week of Giving, is a good time to give and provide service.
“I felt that this was an opportunity to introduce the concept as well as give service, so they understand what nonprofits do and how they serve people and why they ask for support,” she said.
Jones, who shared the impact her opportunities have been with helping others, told students that the IRC was founded in 1933 by Albert Einstein, who was a refugee himself. She explained the mission and how that the organization has helped more than 35,000 people from 32 countries in 25 offices, including Salt Lake City.
Since Salt Lake City opened in 1994, the local IRC office has helped resettle more than 12,000 refugees.
“It was a wonderful opportunity for them to understand the mission and understand the plight of refugees from a parent who is passionate about her work,” Warner said.
IRC Development Manager Jesse Sheets said they are grateful for Waterford’s ongoing contributions.
“The International Rescue Committee in Salt Lake City has worked with Waterford School for more than a decade, helping connect newly arrived refugee families with some of their neighbors in the valley to enjoy a meal together and receive household basic supplies,” Sheets said. “We are grateful for the student-led effort at Waterford School: it goes beyond welcoming to ensuring families are included in the activities directly. They create a true, community space with games for the kids and connections made between the students at Waterford School and the families joining during the event. Waterford School works to carefully identify and address family needs while also creating a space for families to feel included in their community. The in-kind donations gathered by Waterford School directly support the families identified through the process and surplus items are returned to the IRC to benefit other families in the weeks and months after the holiday season.”
Waterford’s Week of Giving isn’t the only opportunity the student club has given service. Hiestand said that they are providing monthly volunteer activities for students to get involved.
“I’ve volunteered all my life, and I’ve learned a lot by doing it. I’ve met so many people and have bonded with my family and friends by serving,” she said. “I love giving service. It’s not a calling, but it’s a necessity.”
In the fall, students organized and held a blood drive and also put on a campus fun run fundraiser for For the Kids, a nonprofit organization that provides weekend meals to elementary students who depend on the federal free lunch program.
Club leaders are making plans for the spring, which may include sewing masks for a hospital or homeless shelter and holding a toy drive for a children’s hospital.
“We have a lot of events and ideas we want to do yet. We’ve done more than we have other years and we’re not even halfway through the year,” Parker said. “Service is important in our lives regardless of our age or what we want to do. It’s a life experience everyone should have.”
Hiestand agrees: “It’s imperative for our generation to help bring people up…to better our communities. Our goal is to go out to make it a better place.”