PALs spreads some holiday cheer amidst pandemic Maddi Logsdon ‘21 and Ella Rosenthal ‘21 explain why this year’s gift drive is so important.

Peer Assistance and Leadership (PALs), an organization centered around helping students of all ages, is helping families get presents for their children for the holidays. This initiative allows families to adopt families in order to get them gifts for the holidays. The gift drive is currently scheduled to occur on Dec. 17 and Dec. 18.

Maddi Logsdon ’21, a member of PALs, is helping with the gift drive this year. Lodsdon explains why the gift drive is important; “I think it’s important because it gives people a chance to give and receive gifts even if they are not financially able to do so. This year has been tough on so many people so this small thing could be huge for a family.” Ella Rosenthal ’21, another member of PALs, also spoke about the importance of the gift drive for families “I think the gift drive is super important for the West High community because it is primarily helping families get things they need. Although it is presented as presents, a lot of families just need some more expensive things, so I think utilizing the format of a gift drive was really great as a way to fuel the drive.”

Rosenthal also spoke about the feeling of connectivity between the families. “Outside of helping families get what they need this winter, it is something really cheerful to keep a lot of adopting families connected to the West community, and I think it also helps them feel more connected and aware of families they may not normally connect with and what they might need.”

Logsdon spoke on the core mission of PALs, as well as where their excitement to join came from “I wanted to work with PALs because I wanted to be able to make a difference. I also was really excited to work with elementary students because I enjoy working with kids.” Though the class allows for students to work with people in junior high and high school as well as elementary school, the main focus is on helping others and growing as a person, as Rosenthal’s reason for joining shows, “I really like working with kids and I knew that PAL would be a great place to grow because it is working with a much wider range of kids than I was used to and as a result would have some really helpful ways for me to learn how to be the best mentor through that.”

Though PALs has only worked with high school students thus far, both Logsdon and Rosenthal found the experience to be extremely rewarding. Logsdon found the most rewarding part to be “being able to help kids be able to pass classes. We worked with some students who really just needed a little help to finish strong through the end of the trimester and it was really cool being able to help people make that possible.”

“The most rewarding thing I have had so far in PALs is getting to know the people I’ve met,” Rosenthal said. “So far I’ve only done some ‘tutoring’ in a success center, so while I felt like the focus was on homework, I’ve really liked getting to have conversations that are completely unrelated because I get to actually know the people and I like knowing people.”

Ways to Help

With the holidays in full-swing, many people take this time to support their community. PALs hopes to provide families with a bit of holiday cheer, by giving gifts to ICCSD members. Here are some other ways that students can give back to their community this holiday season.

Holiday Adopt-A-Family

Similar to the PALs gift drive, the United Way of Johnson and Washington Counties have a program dedicated to providing gifts and necessities to families in the community. Their Holiday Adopt-A-Family program helps families that are experiencing financial hardship, health problems or families that have been impacted by COVID-19. People can sign up to adopt a family by contacting Patti Fields at (319) 338-7823 or patti.fields@unitedwayjwc.org. Once they have signed up, they receive a wish list from the adopted family that includes information, clothes sizes and items they would like to receive.

Keep the Cheer Here

The Iowa City Area Business Partnership has a program called Keep the Cheer Here that is designed to encourage the community to shop locally. Their website includes lists of local businesses and the different services they provide. Students can use this resource to shop locally when purchasing holiday gifts.

West High Supply

Located in the guidance office at West, West High Supply provides school supplies, hygiene supplies, winter clothes and a food pantry for students. Students can also donate to West High Supply by emailing Omega Dancel at dancel.omega@iowacityschools.org.

Donate Clothes

Old winter clothes or other clothes can be donated to many different Iowa City organizations. Goodwill accepts donations during regular business hours at any of their locations. Shelter House will take donations after being contacted at (319) 351-0326 or after filling out an inquiry form. Stuff Etc is another organization that takes donations. All of these organizations have lists on their website of items they will and will not take.