Warm socks, toothbrushes, shampoo, blankets, children’s toys, and purses are just a few of the items that were found overflowing from the large, pink donation boxes placed by senior students of Timothy Christian School (TCS) across the community of Williamsburg. In some locations, they had to add a second or even a third box alongside the original pink ones to hold the continuous donations that were pouring in—something the grades six through eight students had not anticipated when they began their Christmas purse project just a few weeks ago.
“I loved seeing how the community became so involved in this project!” shared Noah, a grade seven student at TCS.
The students were looking for a way to serve in their community this Christmas as a culminating project for their Literature unit, “Building Community”, and chose to partner with local organizations to help out a family resource centre in their own backyard by creating a Christmas purse project.
“We wanted to find ways to connect with our local community and to give back,” shared teacher Marlene Luchies. “This project offered a way for students to connect with local businesses and to partner with them in raising awareness for, and helping to fill, an important need right here in our own community.”
Late in November, students in the three oldest grades at TCS began to distribute large, pink boxes at local businesses and churches to collect items that are needed by women and their children who have escaped abusive situations and are staying at the nearby Naomi’s Family Resource Centre (NFRC). When the boxes were filled, the students sorted the donated items at their school and participated in a “packing party”—filling purses with the much-needed items that had been given.
“Everyone really loved the packing party,” said grade seven student Naomi. “Mostly, I loved adding the personal touches. Because we added personal touches, the women will know that we were not just stuffing the purses, but were also putting in effort and care. We will also be making cards, which I will enjoy because they will give the women a hope-filled note.”
“The Purse Project that we started doing at our school is a great way for people that need to get away from bad homes to receive simple things like deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hairbrushes, shampoo and conditioner, socks, pyjamas, underwear, baby powder, diapers, baby clothes, and also other things like gift cards, pocket games, small toys, and baby toys,” shared Hannah, a grade six student at TCS. “These things that we collected for the project are things that they don’t grab when they leave … it’s an amazing way for us to build God’s kingdom by helping others from right here in our school!”
The TCS students were also working closely together with another organization called “Timmy’s Place”—a second hand clothing and housewares store, run by volunteers, that has been raising funds for Timothy Christian School for over nine years. Their manager, Monique Wissink, really loves the idea of building community with others through a service project such as this one, which gets parents, students, and community members involved together. Since the project began in late November, she set aside all the purses that have been donated to the store so that they could be filled with donated items that are needed for the women’s shelter.
“When we put the word out over the last few weeks that we were going to be doing this project, many others from the community started bringing in new and gently used purses specifically for this reason as well!” shared Ms. Wissink. She also explained that many of the volunteers that help out at the thrift store are not even familiar with what is going on in the neighbouring school and that working together to gather and fill purses for others also provided the opportunity for the volunteers to get an idea of what the school is all about. “Partnering together on a project like this just makes so much sense,” she added. “It’s a great thing for everyone when we work together!”
Ms. Luchies and her students were overwhelmed at the outpouring of donations that continued to come in. “More and more people contacted us, letting us know that they wanted to get involved in this project and to contribute in one way or another!” she shared. “We had leaders of youth groups calling to say that their groups had decided to forego their Christmas gift exchanges so that they could donate the money for more donation items to be bought, and friends of friends called to ask how they could help—it’s kinda crazy how much momentum the project ended up building—it’s been so exciting!”
Cameron, a student in grade six at TCS, was also surprised by how full the donation boxes were getting. “My favorite part of doing the Christmas purse project was seeing all the boxes overflow with things for Naomi’s House,” he shared, “and packing everything into the purses on Thursday!”
TCS principal Heidi Blokland is thrilled at how this project took off in their community and beyond. “We’ve been intentionally challenging our students to think about what it means to build God’s Kingdom this year,” she shared. “This purse project was a concrete way for us to help others. And through the project, we had the opportunity to partner with local businesses and community members outside of our school, and to build relationships—that’s the Kingdom!”
Now that the donations have been gathered and the purses have been packed, they will be dropped off at the Naomi Family Resource Centre (NFRC) for distribution on December 14th. “Naomi’s will be celebrating thirty years of service next year,” shared NFRC Executive Director Verna Leger, “and we are always so very appreciative of the on-going generosity, understanding, and support received by groups such as the senior students at Timothy Christian School!”
“My students really jumped on board with this project,” added Ms. Luchies. “It spoke to their hearts, and it has allowed them to practice in concrete ways how to love their neighbours during this Christmas season—as a student body, as a school community, and together with our extended community.”
“I have always felt that I can’t do anything that will make a difference,” shared Laura, a grade seven student, “but I can! I have a way better life than a lot of kids, and this project gave me the chance to share and give back!”