Thousands of local students got an early Christmas gift this year.
Teachers throughout the Atlantic City School District — with help from local organizations and residents — were able to provide its neediest students and their families with some much-appreciated Christmas gifts Friday.
Atlantic City Teachers United — a nonprofit volunteer organization made up of employees in the district — took tabs on the children whose families were most affected by Hurricane Sandy. To help, the employees have had multiple fundraisers in the community and solicited donations, said Cinthya Llerena, co-organizer of Friday’s event at Our Lady Star of the Sea parish on Atlantic Avenue.
The volunteers invited students throughout the district to the church Friday to collect food, furniture, clothing, baby supplies and wrapped toys, Llerena said. With help from donations, there were 2,000 toys for the kids, she said.
The organization will hold another giveaway this afternoon — this time for the entire public, Llerena said. There also will be a Christmas party for invited children in the district Sunday, she said.
More than 200 families who were displaced or who had major needs for the holiday season were invited, Llerena said. Additional students were given toys because they had so many extras, she said.
“Because of Sandy, we were all united,” she said. “From Day One we saw how much need we had in the district.”
Cinthya’s mother Hilda Llerena, a Spanish teacher at Texas Avenue School, said for many of the kids whose families are dealing with problems after Sandy, Christmas had been afterthought.
“Today, so many people are smiling,” she said. “That’s the point. They are so happy to come with their family and get a few presents.”
Atlantic City High School freshman Fouzia Sultane, 15, said her family’s home was severely damaged and still does not have heat. She and her four siblings were grateful to receive gifts for the holiday.
“When something like this happens, you feel very warm that people care enough to do something like this,” she said.
Nadine Batchelor-Hale, a paraprofessional educator at Texas Avenue School, said she and many of her colleagues were very excited to be part of the event.
“I enjoy giving. I enjoy helping others,” she said. “When you’re blessed, you pass your blessings on. It’s nice to see people come in and be so happy.”
Contact Joel Landau:
Follow @landaupressofac on Twitter