Salida High School junior Sophie Pressly had an idea to help less fortunate children during the holiday season.
She created the Heart of the Community Christmas Drive in October as a means to get more teen volunteers into the community and to raise money to buy Christmas presents for needy children.
The program started with 27 students volunteering their time in a variety of ways. Each was asked to get sponsors who would pay a certain amount for each volunteer hour worked.
About 12 teens completed the program and were eligible for two $500 scholarships offered by Heart of the Rockies Chamber of Commerce and Salida Rotary Club.
The scholarships were awarded to the volunteer who had worked the most hours and who raised the most money. Both scholarships went to Maisy Haynes, the program’s sole senior, who put in 31½ hours and raised $608 by volunteering at Salida Boys & Girls Club.
Haynes had never volunteered at the Boys & Girls Club before.
“It was incredible to be a part of a program like HCCD that was focused entirely on volunteering in our community,” Haynes said.
“In my experience, especially at Boys & Girls Club, I got to meet so many new people, and I was able to connect with the students there, watching them learn and grow.
“This program helped me realize the great things volunteering can do for the community and other people as well, and I’m glad I was given the opportunity to help.”
Tessie Ortega, Salida Boys & Girls Club branch director, said Haynes was an “immense and consistent help” at the club, and the club gained a great new volunteer, as she is interested in continuing to volunteer.
In all, the participating students put in 113 volunteer hours and raised $3,696 in donations, including a $500 donation from Monarch Community Outreach.
With that money the group was able to buy Christmas gifts of clothing, shoes, toys and other items for 82 children. Items were distributed to families during the week before Christmas.
Most of the purchases were for Tree of Hope children.
Pressly said, “I never realized the amount of help some families in town needed. This opened my eyes to that.”
She said she was “super delightfully surprised” at how well the program went, even though it was a lot of hard work.
Pressly said she hopes the Heart of the Community Christmas Drive will become a tradition.
She would like to start the program earlier next year and have more underclassmen participate who can learn the organizational piece so they can take over after she graduates next year.