Atlanta Public Schools employees and JROTC students made the holiday season a little brighter for hundreds of children and families on Wednesday through their participation in the Atlanta Empty Stocking Fund’s annual Santa’s Village initiative.
Nearly 100 APS employees, including Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen, and more than 100 JROTC cadets volunteered for several hours at the Santa’s Village distribution center in the East Atlanta/Kirkwood community. They gave toys, books and socks to about 2,700 needy children and families throughout the metro Atlanta area.
Additionally, in the last month APS JROTC cadets have collected $35,000 in donations with the assistance of Kroger Stores in the community, while employees at the district’s Center for Learning and Leadership (CLL) collected more than $1,200 in one day. The total amount of $36,200 will be donated to the Atlanta Empty Stocking Fund.
Through relationships with a number of community partners and wholesale distributors, the Atlanta Empty Stocking Fund purchases brand new items in sufficient quantities (delete comma) in order to offer a variety of age- and gender-appropriate choices for children from birth to 12 years of age. Then from Dec. 1 – 21, families who are qualified to receive certain benefits through the Division of Family and Children Services are invited to visit Santa’s Village to select gifts and other items for their children.
Over the years, Dec. 9 has become the date when APS employees and JROTC cadets volunteer to work in all aspects of the Santa’s Village distribution process, from client registration and check-in, to helping clients select toys, to completing client gift packages to check out.
“For APS employees, it provides us with an opportunity to give back to the community we serve,” said APS JROTC Director of Army Instruction and Leadership Lt. Col. Robert W. Rooker, who has coordinated APS Day at Santa’s Village for several years. “Personally, it’s my favorite day of the year.”
He said his cadets agree.
“It’s great to see that they enjoy serving those who are less fortunate than they are,” Lt. Col. Rooker said. “To a kid, when I ask them their favorite service learning experience, they will said Special Olympics and the Empty Stocking Fund. They’re wiped out at the end of the day because they’re so busy, but they love it.”