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VIDEO: Students, Staff Support Lancaster Youth Bureau’s Day of Giving

Students and staff from the Lancaster Central School District may have been the ones helping the Lancaster Youth Bureau’s Day of Giving, but the group may have been the recipient of the biggest gift of all: The opportunity to make a difference.

“I’m just so excited to be able to give someone something to help them out,” said Kyrstin Davis, a Lancaster High School senior who serves as president of the school’s National Honor Society. “It’s just the best feeling that I get to surround myself with people that want to help out.”

A total of 141 local families were registered for the December 15 event, which has been held since the early 1980s. Families received an assortment of gifts picked out for children, a full meal along with cookies arranged by students, and even trees and other decorations for their homes. The day drew students from Lancaster High School, Lancaster Middle School, William Street School, and nearby Como Park Elementary School.

Danielle Pitirri, a community and school social worker who coordinated the event, said the day was her favorite of the year. “It’s the community coming together to give,” she said. “This is the spirit of Lancaster in a nutshell.”

The bureau and Lancaster schools have worked together for years on the event, said John Trojanowsky, the bureau’s executive director, who noted the event’s current name came from Lancaster Leadership Academy co-director Mark Skowron. Trojanowsky said he was amazed seeing the participation of young people in the event.

“It is so important for society in general to have young people understand the importance of looking out for those who are less fortunate,” Trojanowsky said. “It takes a village, and we’re in this together, all of us.”

The day comes following months of planning and fundraising from students in multiple organizations to help support the day. Kelly Ambrose, co-director of the Lancaster Leadership Academy, said the excitement from students comes through from the planning to handing off of items.

“It’s so powerful to see the lessons the students are learning to know to always give back,” Ambrose said. “It’s student-centered and seeing that come into play, that’s what changes them for life.”

Working on the floor of the bureau was Lancaster Middle School eighth-grader Charlotte Benaglio, who found herself picking up items like a hair curler for a 13-year-old girl. Getting to help with the day and work with high schoolers made her excited to continue helping in future years.

“It’s just the feeling of being able to help someone,” Charlotte said. “I think they’re going to be really excited.”

Daniel Ambrose, a Lancaster High School sophomore, is a member of the Lancaster High School Student Union, which fundraised to purchase trees from nearby Jurek Plantations to give to families. The anticipation going into the day was fully realized as he saw items arranged to be handed out.

“It’s empowering,” Daniel said. “You see other big organizations involved in events like this and it’s great to be able to be a part of this as a sophomore.”

As he wrapped gifts on the floor, Lancaster Central Schools Superintendent Michael J. Vallely said he was proud of how students rose to the occasion.

“It’s a real opportunity for them to learn and experience giving and sharing, and there’s a lot of people benefiting from the work that these kids do,” he said. “This is where the human spirit and seeing others comes through.”

Thomas Smith, a third grader, could be seen working with older students to pick out items like stuffed animals. He had only one word when asked how he thought recipients would feel receiving a gift: Happy.

To watch a video of the day, visit https://bit.ly/4aqlPRP. 

This article was initially published as part of the 2023 Lancaster Winter Newsletter. Read the full newsletter here.

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