The Grisham Middle School elves have done it again.
The school’s students on Friday donated more than $5,000 worth of gifts and more than $3,300 in gift cards to Jazmyne Johnson and her three children. Thanks to them, the Johnsons will be opening a room full of gifts this Christmas morning.
The Johnsons are one of 12 families featured in this year’s Statesman Season for Caring program, which highlights those families’ needs but also helps hundreds of others through local nonprofit organizations. The Johnsons were nominated by Opportunities for Williamson and Burnet Counties.
Johnson, 24, is a single mother who has been living with her grandmother in Hutto. She’s trying to go back to school so she can better provide for her 4-year-old twin daughters, Nakayla and Nyliah, and 3-year-old son Nehemiah. Nakayla was born with microcephaly, which means her skull didn’t grow large enough for her brain. She also has developmental delays.
Donating to a Season for Caring family has been a tradition at Grisham Middle School since 2010. Former students continue to participate, and each year, the number of people who donate and the amount donated grow. Students who can’t afford to give a gift donate in other ways, such as calling businesses for donations, making signs or wrapping the gifts.
“Giving is part of who we are. It’s our identity,” Principal Paige Hadziselimovic said.
All through the school are posters encouraging students to donate to Statesman Season for Caring with slogans like “Don’t be a Grinch, give to Season for Caring.” A big banner with “Season for Caring” written in big letters hangs across the hallway.
Throughout December, students made announcements over the intercom, called businesses, asked their parents for donations, and had them post calls for more donations on Facebook, Nextdoor and neighborhood homeowner association websites.
Teachers Kristin Goodman and Susan Dickson, who spearhead the effort for the school, promised that if the students raised $2,000 by last Wednesday, they would dress up as the “Elf on the Shelf” and hang out on top of the school sign.
Their students raised the money, and so the teachers sat on the sign.
“It was fun,” Dickson said. “There were a lot of people who took pictures.”
Goodman added, “Us doing embarrassing things is a very powerful motivator.”
Earlier this week, about 75 kids came to wrap the gifts, and, on Friday afternoon, a dozen middle-schoolers gave up their first day of winter break to be with the Johnson family and sing Christmas carols to them as they walked into the Grisham Middle School art room.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Johnson said as she looked at all the gifts lined up along one wall of the room. “This is a blessing. This is the best Christmas ever. I will never forget this day.” Her eyes filled with tears.
“Thank you for blessing us with your story,” Hadziselimovic told Johnson.
The Johnson kids each opened one gift. Inside, the girls found giant pink teddy bears and Nehemiah got a giant stuffed elephant.
Shyly, Johnson asked if she could open a gift, too. Goodman, Dickson and some of the students started looking through the presents. They knew exactly which one they wanted her to open.
“I got me a computer!” she screamed as she opened the box. “I’m sweating. I needed that. You all don’t understand. I’ve never had my own computer and I’m 24,” she told the kids. “This is my birthday gift, my Christmas gift, this is my Valentine’s Day gift. My hair is about to come out of my head.”
Other gifts included a desk and chair for her, and a table and chairs for her kids. Johnson would now have a place to do her homework.
Most of her wish list has been completed, but three big items remain: a new apartment, a gently used car and tuition for school. To find out more about the Johnson family or to give an item on its wish list, contact Opportunities for Williamson and Burnet Counties, 512-763-1400, opportunitiesforwbc.org.
SEASON FOR CARING
• To make a monetary donation to Season for Caring, go online to statesman.com/seasonforcaring.
• Find more stories, videos and photos of all the families at statesman.com/seasonforcaring.
• To learn more about donating an item or a service, call 512-445-3590 or email email@example.com.