Published in the December 27, 2017 edition

LYNNFIELD MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS, from left, John Pascucci, Jared Bernabei, Jack Kouyoumdjian, Owen Doherty and Maksim Pekar display a wrapped gift that was donated to a needy family during the annual LMS gift drive Dec. 20.(Dan Tomasello Photo)


LYNNFIELD — The season of giving is alive and well at Lynnfield Middle School.

The middle school’s cafeteria was transformed into Santa’s Workshop during the annual holiday gift drive on Dec. 20. The highly anticipated community tradition spearheaded by LMS students and families led to countless gifts being donated to nine needy families who have multiple children.

Similar to previous years, the middle school partnered with the Department of Children and Families’ Lynn Area Office. A caravan of vehicles driven by DCF employees filled in for Santa and his eight tiny reindeer in order to make holiday wishes come true.

The outpouring of support amazed fifth grade teacher and gift drive organizer Patricia Hazelton once again.

“I think this gift drive might be the best yet,” said Hazelton. “I know I say that every year, but every year I am always blown away by the generosity and the way our community comes together.”

Middle School Assistant Principal Tom Sallee agreed.

“I am totally blown away by the generosity of the community,” said Sallee. “It’s really inspiring to see all of the families and students working so hard to help other families.”

Students donated gifts large and small to children of all ages. Every child who received gifts had a wish list and students worked diligently to grant every child’s wish.

When asked how many gifts were donated this year, Hazelton said “I lost count on the first day.”

Hazelton noted the entire eighth grade sponsored one needy family who have multiple children.

“The eighth grade raised almost $1,000, and they purchased two twin beds that were delivered to a family who needed beds,” said Hazelton. “And that was just the eighth grade alone.”

Hazelton said students sponsored two adolescent boys who are in foster homes as well.

“They have gone foster family to foster family,” said Hazelton. “They are 17 and 18, so they needed a lot of items to keep in their home because they are going to be on their own soon. For fun, we got them a couple of drones. We also got them a membership to AAA, winter coats, boats, pots and pans, and things they will need when they are on their own.”

Hazelton said middle school families received “a lot of requests for dolls this year.”

“We purchased a lot of dolls and doll accessories, which was nice,” said Hazelton. “Some of the younger kids wanted tea sets and kitchen sets.”

Hazelton said some of the other big-ticket items included a Nintendo Switch and bicycles. Similar to previous years, Lynnfield High School students donated stockings for children in need.

“They were amazing,” said Hazelton about the stockings donated by LHS students.

Additionally, Hazelton said the LMS community purchased necessities for needy families.

“We insisted that everyone get great bedding this year, so everybody got lots of bedding,” said Hazelton. “There were a lot of needs for hygiene products and cleaning products. We were able to get Costco-size paper towels and toilet paper. We made sure every family got a gift card for food and all the kids got gift cards to the locations they requested. Every family got coats, mittens, hats and sweatshirts.”

Hazelton noted a LMS parent who works for Converse donated a number of items that were donated to multiple families.

“It was really nice,” said Hazelton.

Hazelton was impressed with the number volunteers who stepped up during this year’s gift drive.

“We had a lot of kids who wrapped gifts and we had many parents involved this year, which was awesome,” said Hazelton. “The parents worked together at each grade level to make sure things were accomplished.”

DCF social worker Britt Scoglio thanked the LMS community for making holiday wishes come true once again.

“It’s absolutely incredible,” said Scoglio. “It’s integral to providing a lot of our low income families with a Christmas and holiday season.”

Hazelton noted the LMS gift drive transcends the school community.

“This is not just a tradition at the middle school,” said Hazelton. “It’s a tradition for the town. The high school did all of our stockings again. We had a Girl Scout troop sponsor a baby and there were families in town who sponsored other kids. All of the teachers came together to help with the wrapping, and Recreation Director Julie Mallett came and helped. A lot of college kids came back and helped. It’s incredible.”

Hazelton thanked a number of people for their assistance during the gift drive, including LMS media specialist Becky Petrin.

“Becky is my partner in the gift drive efforts,” said Hazelton. “She checks every list twice.”

Hazelton also thanked Scoglio for serving as LMS’ liaison with DCF. She thanked the Middle School PTO for their outreach efforts, particularly Kristin Thomas.

“Kristin coordinated funds and purchased gifts, including the two beds from the eighth graders,” said Hazelton.

Hazelton thanked LMS officials, teachers and parents as well.

“I would like to thank our administration for their support,” said Hazelton. “I have to thank our faculty members because everybody pitches in. Our teachers stood outside at the morning drop off to promote the gift drive, and they came and helped wrap. We have parents who printed the labels. We had eighth grade parents out on (Dec. 19) to get sweatshirts at 9 p.m. We had fifth grade parents set up the sign up genius. It just goes on and on.”

High school teacher Jen Goguen noted LHS teachers Stefanie Marcoux and Jodie Leibowitz coordinated the stockings that were donated.

Hazelton said the gift drive’s success is a testament to the Lynnfield community.

“We not only have a generous town, but we have people who are willing to give their time,” said Hazelton. “I think that says a lot. I think people are grateful for all they have and want to help others.”