Part angel and elf rolled into one, Dana Van Hook has spearheaded the Chicora Gift-Giving Project at Ashley Hall since 1999 and has helped share the spirit of this special season with approximately 3,000 Chicora Elementary students over this 18-year period.
The Chicora Gift-Giving Project features a carefully assembled gift bag given to each student by Santa Claus himself at a special assembly at Chicora. The bag includes approximately 10 gifts: a new school uniform; toiletry items; new books based on the student’s reading level; and a special toy. Most importantly, the bags also include a personalized note from Santa with help from Ashley Hall students! “There is no agenda to the program and absolutely no overhead. 100% of everything is donated and comes from our amazing Ashley Hall community. The gifts given to these precious children takes pressure off their families during what is, for many, a financially challenging time of year. It fills my heart with a refreshed sense of joy every year,” said Dana.
This special holiday service project is embraced by students, faculty, parents, and Ashley Hall alumnae alike. Lively gift-giving assemblies are held in the Lower and Upper School with girls sharing presents and alumnae bring gifts to their Holiday party to contribute to the cause. Dana supplements contributions by shopping sales throughout the year, including buying Christmas cards the day after Christmas from the Dollar Store! Beginning the week prior to Thanksgiving, a special warehouse is donated for sorting of the inventory and bagging. Approximately 80 volunteers are involved in the bag assembly including Ashley Hall faculty/staff, 25 Upper School students, Chicora faculty members, and friends. Bags will then be transported to Chicora Elementary by bus—the large Ashley Hall 40-seater bus and 20 personal cars.
Thank you to all, especially Dana, for sharing your hearts with the children of Chicora Elementary School each December!