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People in Glace Bay are learning all about the holiday spirit, thanks to a local teacher.
For the past 22 years, Lisa Roach has organized an adopt-a-family program to make sure all children receive gifts on Christmas morning.
Her students raise money by collecting recyclables, selling bubble bath and bagging groceries, then create budgets, search online for the best deals, then take a class trip to go shopping for the gifts.
Last year, they helped 48 children — 10 through the Every Woman’s Centre in Sydney and 38 needy students identified by school staff — and Roach expects they’ll have at least that many this year.
“There’s so much to it — not only the budgeting, the math, but you’re also getting into community involvement and what it means to be part of the community and giving back,” explained Roach, who teaches two Grade 8 classes at Oceanview Education Centre. “You can take the health lesson out of it, the social studies lesson — it’s cross-curricular. The students appreciate it so much. They can’t wait to start preparing and shopping. They never forget it. It’s a beautiful experience.”
It's not only her students who are learning.
Jeff Clements has been buying gifts for the program ever since his daughter Emma was one of Roach’s students three years ago. This year, he’s stepping it up a bit by giving Roach all of the money he makes from his Brookside Street Airbnb for the month of December.
So far, there are 18 bookings at the home, which rents for $60 a night.
“Lisa is the kindest person you’ll ever meet. If I can give her $1,500, that’s great. That’s going to allow her to adopt a couple more families and take a lot of stress off her. And it gives the kids a sense of there is people out there that will help you guys, and they’ll pay it forward,” said Clements, a customer service manager for a global call centre company that operates two Airbnb rentals under the Stay in the Bay name.
Roach said Clements’s offer is “extremely generous” and her students were thrilled when they heard they will have more money to help make Christmas special for other children.
“I still can’t believe he’s putting this up and when I spoke to my students they were so excited because they get a little bit nervous because we have a bagging of groceries, which sometimes can brings us up to $2,000. When I told them today about Jeff’s offer, they said ‘Miss, that means we can receive more children.’ And I say the more the merrier.”
Clements isn’t the only person in the community who has been touched by Roach’s efforts.
Former student Patrick Gordon, who’s now a teacher, has been staging a Festivus dance along with friend Brian Yates for the past nine years, with all of the proceeds going to Roach’s adopt-a-family initiative. To date, the event has raised a total of about $25,000 for the cause.
“We’ve all started partnering with Lisa because of what she does,” said Clements.
Roach said she’s happy to help her students — and other people — make a difference, especially when she sees the items children on her list request.
“When you see someone asking for body wash and shampoo and deodorant on a Christmas list, it opens your eyes to what other children don’t have,” she said.
“They’re not asking for elaborate things. They’re not asking for a PlayStation or and Xbox. They’re asking for pyjamas. The girls are asking for makeup, they’re asking for scrunchies — the scrunchies are back again — and the boys are still asking for their Legos and things like that.”
Anyone interested in helping the program can email Roach at [email protected].