Nearly a dozen Viera High School families will have a good Christmas thanks to the generosity of their own classmates and the local community.
"We have about 11 families who have come to me and said they’re in need," Viera High social worker Sarina Coello said.
"We have sponsors through people in the Viera community, Beta Club, cheerleading and SGA. They will provide Christmas dinners and gifts for those families."
And it doesn’t end there, either. After realizing after last Christmas that there were Viera High families in need, the school opened up a food pantry and also began collecting donated clothes and household items.
"This year, we wanted to make sure families knew early on that we’re here for them," Coello said. "Hopefully, we will not miss anybody. And if we have extra this year, as far as being able to provide more dinners than we have families for, we will be able to help some of the elementary schools that have told us that they’re in need."
Coello recalled a time last year, when a family from a local elementary school had a house fire and was in need of sheets and blankets. It wasn’t long after the word got out that those items were donated.
"I love the way the Viera community comes together," Coello said. "They’re so helpful. Endeavor (Elementary School) will tell me that, ‘We need these size clothes,’ or ‘We need these size sneakers’ and families will bring them in brand new for me.
"If they tell me there’s a need and I put it out there, the Viera community is pretty awesome with that."
Viera teacher and co-Beta Club adviser Dave Formanek said donated items are sorted through each day by as many as three to five students who donate their time to stock the pantry’s growing number of shelves.
Sophomore Dennis Roscoe said he enjoys taking part in something that matters. He has been known to volunteer his time between three and four days a week.
"Mostly, my time out of school consists of doing homework or nothing at all," Roscoe said. "Doing something that’s helping people … makes me feel a lot better about myself."
The generosity doesn’t end when the school year does. Formanek said the school still gets donations during the summer and Coello said that if a family emails her to tell her they are in need, she will make herself available to help.
As for supplies for the holidays, the pantry could always use more canned goods, frozen vegetables and fresh fruit.
Students helping students and a community showing it cares … it doesn’t get any better than that.
"I just think the fact that Viera High School and the community at large has really rallied around this … like the Facebook mom’s page has gone crazy over this," Formanek said. "Our newly formed PTO is starting to get involved.
"We’ve got kids that come in regularly, almost every day, with bags of stuff to donate. It’s awesome that we can do this for the kids that attend our school. As a teacher, there’s nothing worse than learning that one of your students is hungry, or doesn’t have a home, or a bed to sleep in.
"You don’t think of Viera as being a school with those kinds of needs, but we do have students that are in that situation. I’m just glad we can help those kids that need it here at our school, and I’m even more excited that because we have so much extra, we can also help some of the other schools around town."