Mighty Mac the McClelland school mascot

ROCHESTER — Superintendent Kyle Repucci is pleased to share that students and staff at McClelland Elementary School, with support from the community, worked together to support families in need this holiday season.

A total of 43 childrens' families were assisted this year thanks to the program and hard work of students and staff.

The Holiday Help program at McClelland started in 2010, when first grade teacher Davita Fortier and front office secretary Kim Perkins began a program to help families who have trouble making ends meet during the Christmas season.

"My parents went through some tough times when I was young and if it hadn’t been for our church community sponsoring us, we would not have had a Christmas for several years," Fortier said. "I look at this as paying it forward."

The program is funded with donations from staff members via events like $1 Jeans Days, the Parent Teacher Association, and the annual Fall Walk, in which students get donations pledged and then walk to earn the pledged donations. The program is also supported by the generosity of several local businesses and the First Baptist Church of Greater Rochester and the Linus Project at the United Methodist Church in Rochester.

Fortier works with Guidance Counselor Kathy Poitras to gather names of students whose families may need help, and then they reach out to those families to see if assistance would be welcomed.

"Some thank us for our concern, but say they are all set, and there are others who thankfully accept our offer," Fortier said.

The Holiday Help program prioritizes assisting with needs — such as coats, hats, and boots first, but any funds left over after addressing needs are used to buy toys from children's wish lists.

"I'm so happy that this project has bloomed into a larger community project of people looking to make a difference in the lives of our McClelland families," Fortier said.

"I'm so proud of our students and staff for their work to help others during the holiday season," said Principal Maegan Jerr. "This is just one of many efforts supported by the McClelland Elementary staff which helps achieve one of the district's goals, which is to 'recruit, hire, develop, and retain caring educators.'"