Spreading Joy During the Holidays

These People Know How To Give Back


Elisha Christensen, Staff Writer

COVID-19 has complicated many plans; from sports to helping people. But, some Titans have found a way to navigate through the restrictions and stay-at-home orders to help others during the holiday season. 

Senior Vivian Sanchez is always busy with the next project. On her Discord, her caption reads “doing my two essays.” When Sanchez is not busy doing homework in her many upper-level classes, she likes to give back. 

Sanchez runs her own Pen Pal Project called “write to me to you.” It is a student-run initiative to help save the USPS by using pen pal letters. The project aims to spread awareness about and for the USPS and “support mail carrier,” Poway High senior Bailee Vranish said. 

This initiative is pretty new, but Sanchez and her team have been working extra hard to promote and finalize the non-profit. She plans on having a joint meeting with Key Club to write “thank-you” letters to mail carriers. 

For the Holiday season, Sanchez is planning a small pen pal gift exchange with her team. “I’m hoping to hand out gifts for my own mail carrier by writing notes and leaving out snacks for them,” Sanchez said. 

Another organization that has been busy giving back this month is Poway Kiwanis. Poway Kiwanis is a parent organization for Poway’s Key Club and many Key Club members attend service projects created by Kiwanis. 

Around this time of year, Poway Kiwanis holds the service event Holiday For Heroes. Despite the stay-at-home orders, Kiwanis has been creative to continue the event. 

In previous years, the event consisted of in-person shopping where elementary students work together with a Veteran to shop for gifts for their families and for food that is prepared by the Kiwanians. With the Pandemic is in full throttle, the creator of the event, Patti Ryder decided to spice things up. 

This year the event was a food and clothing distribution. Parents of the children drove by, stopping at each pop-up tent to receive cool items like blankets, goodie bags, and more. 

The Holiday for Heroes has a long history. It was started 16 years ago by Ryder for her Summit for Children Foundation, which is a family-run foundation. She would give the elementary students $100 while being accompanied by a “Hero,” to shop for their family. Ryder wanted the kids to, “experience the joy of giving.”

Ever since then,  Kiwanis got involved and the event has grown. It has taken many forms. Some years the kids have come in buses while others had the parents drop the kids off. Either way, this event is run to help kids of low socioeconomic status the ability to buy gifts for their families.

With COVID-19 restrictions, Kiwanis has come prepared. Volunteers wore masks and gloves, handling items in their own section. Kids stayed in the car; items were placed in the back or directly into the hands of the parents. Overall, the volunteers had very little contact with the families. 

Many people in the community joined to help. “Everybody has a job and a role to play,” Ryder says. Poway’s Key Club attended along with a Girl Scout Group and several schools. 

“The PHS and CCHS Key Clubs made goody bags which we passed out to the kids,” senior Tess Prutow said. Even NCL (National Charity League) provided batteries.

The past events have been in the Walmart parking lot and at Kohls. This year the event was held at City Hall. The event planners were unsure if the city would allow the event to go on with all the COVID restrictions, but thankfully City Hall pulled through and the event was allowed to continue. 

The Holiday For Heroes event had a total of 74 families come by, and everyone was happy to volunteer. “I found it fun to… see all the people that put effort into the event,” Prutow said. 

At the end of the day, “Everyone that is here is a hero,” Ryder said.