How some local students are trying to make Christmas special for orphaned kids

Students at Morton Middle School in Vandalia jumped on board the Tipp City-based Project Believe with both feet.

They have a lot of company in supporting the nonprofit project started more than a decade ago by Tammie Rafferty to provide gifts to local youth orphaned by mental, emotional and behavioral challenges.

The Morton students this year donated, through the Morton Youth Service Association, 1,370 pair of new socks for the nearly 300 youth. Rafferty said they will receive the gifts for Christmas from Project Believe. Another event, a Santafoolery Bike Tour in downtown Dayton earlier this month, added donated socks and underwear.

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These were among a number of collections and donations of blankets, hats, gloves and other items throughout the area for the project.

The gifts were wrapped during a volunteer party Dec. 12 at Broadway Elementary School in Tipp City. People of all ages, some wearing Santa hats and others in reindeer antlers, filled bags with the donated gifts and spread out through the school gym and cafeteria to wrap each item.

Among wrappers were several of the Morton Middle School students accompanied by school counselor Megan Reinhart.

The Youth Services Association was founded three years ago by two eighth graders. In searching for service ideas, they found how socks are a much needed and forgotten item of clothing for underprivileged community members, Reinhart said.

In October for the past three years, the school has held “Socktober,” where students are encouraged to donate new socks. There also was an after-school sock hop with admission being a new pair of socks.

“As we continued to meet people through our service projects, we had the pleasure of meeting Tammie, who shared the background and goals of Project Believe. We got so excited to donate our socks to a local organization and participate in the holiday wrapping event where we actually see our socks being put to good use,” Reinhart said.

The service club this year has 65 members who promote the sock drive, which involves the whole student body. Classes have a competition to see which brings in the most socks. This year’s winning group was 272 pair in a sixth-grade group.

Among other wrappers were Natalie Duncan, a Tippecanoe High School graduate, and fiance Scott Salyer. They donated to Project Believe toys and clothing purchased with the money they planned to spend on favors for their wedding on New Year’s Eve. The donation was in honor of their wedding guests.

The gifts were destined for youth living at nine locations in eight counties, Rafferty said.

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