Saturday, December 1, 2012

Warmth That Comes Around and Goes Around

Hill School student Conor Shields
The more things come around, the more they go around.

This is a story of students in Pottstown helping students in Berks County, and a student from Berks County who wanted to help families in Pottstown.

Hill School student Conor Shields, class of 2015 is a native of Wyomissing and wanted to do something to assist children here in Pottstown, according to information forwarded to my in-box by Communications Director Cathy Skitko.

Conor’s father, Pat, is the chairman of the board at the Olivet Boys and Girls Club of Reading, and Pottstown’s Ricketts Center, located near The Hill on Beech Street, is part of Olivet’s extended organizational family.

Knowing that new winter coats were being purchased for more than 140 children at Ricketts through the Colonial Oaks Foundation and Operation Warm, Conor decided to spearhead a collection drive to also provide new hats, gloves, and scarves to each Pottstown child who will receive a new coat.

“Through volunteer work that I do with the Olivett Boys and Girls Clubs, I know there is so much the kids there need,” Conor said.

“The Ricketts Center is a neighbor of The Hill’s. I thought that especially at this time of year it would be nice for Hill to give the kids who use the Center some new things to keep them warm.”
Hats gloves and scarves can be donated at the Hill School's Alumni House
or Center for the Arts.

Conor’s effort will be ongoing through Friday, Dec. 7. Individuals interested in making a contribution may do so at Hill’s Alumni House at 715 E. High Street or the Center For The Arts off Beech Street, or, for those on campus, Ryan Library or Mercer Field House.

The Hill also is again participating in the Salvation Army’s “Angel Tree” toy collection. This year Hill faculty, staff, and students will contribute toys, clothing, and other items to about 100 Pottstown children.

Hill day students are also collecting non-perishable foods for the Pottstown Church Cluster Outreach Center and will be collecting in the Student Center through next week.

Students, staff or visitors can drop off canned goods, cereals, boxed pasta, rice, or potatoes, peanut butter, jelly in a plastic jar or canned fruit (no glass jars please) by the Christmas tree.

Now comes the goes around part, where kids in Pottstown help those in need in Berks County.

It began this fall with a phone call to Skitko from Diana Rivera-O’Bryant, the parent coordinator at the 12th and Marion Elementary School in Reading. 

Two years ago, a Hill parent connected Rivera-O’Bryant with The Hill in an attempt to help the Reading school gather uniform clothing and other necessities for their children’s families, as documented in a story that ran on Hill’s website and also in regional print and broadcast media. 

Rivera-O’Bryant called The Hill again in October to request Hill’s help anew.

“Reading was declared the most poverty stricken city in the nation last year,” Rivera-O’Bryant said recently. “Approximately 90 percent or more of our school’s students receive free or reduced price breakfast and lunch; many do not have a structured or stable home environment; some are transient or homeless.”

Rivera-O’Bryant noted that the 12th and Marion faculty and others routinely donate clothing for families who are unable to buy school uniforms, shoes, boots, and warm outerwear. 

But this year the need is so great, she said, that the school needed to look beyond their usual benefactors. Would The Hill be willing to help again?

Skitko wrote that The Hill replied with a clear “yes.” 

A quick call was made to Lynda Hamilton-Kirk, Hill’s director of parent programs, and she immediately reached out to Hill parents for their assistance. 

Before long, William and Kristen Cossel, parents of Elizabeth Cossel ’14 of Pottstown and Brian Wilkes and Krystle Chuong, parents of Nicolette Wilkes ’11 of Douglassville, offered to involve the Berks Bruins ice hockey organization and Body Zone of Wyomissing in a new and gently used winter clothing drive for 12th and Marion Elementary School. 

 (Both the Cossels and the Wilkes families have sons who play for the Bruins; the Bruins play at the Body Zone facility.)

All items have been collected at Body Zone in Wyomissing, except for those things collected on Hill’s campus by Hamilton-Kirk at the Alumni House. 

The drive ended yesterday and the Reading school's staff will sort the items and prepare to distribute them to families on Dec. 5.

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