PALMDALE – Eager parents slowly browsed tables loaded with dolls, digital cameras and even electric guitars, selecting the perfect gift for each of their children. But there were no price tags or cash registers at this holiday boutique hosted by Manzanita Elementary School. Every soon-to-be Christmas gift was free.
“Manzanita is more than a school,” said Principal Kelly Jensen. “We are part of this neighborhood and community. This was our way of saying ‘Happy holidays’ to our families.”
The boutique was the pet project of third grade teacher Jeff Pettipas, who led the campaign to collect new toys to be given away at the boutique since beginning of October.
“Teachers, staff and community members all pulled together to donate,” said Pettipas. “They are providing parents an opportunity to make the holidays a little more bright for their children.”
“We even got a lot of support from our superintendent,” Pettipas said. “When we presented the idea to Mr. Maldonado, he got very excited. It was very encouraging.”
More than 145 children will receive gifts from the boutique, all free of charge. Fliers went home with every student inviting parents to participate. In the end, 86 families signed up. Each was randomly assigned a time slot to come to the boutique, which was held from 3 to 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec 11.
While parents browsed the boutique, their children were busy coloring and enjoying candy canes in a nearby classroom. Parents were even given dark plastic bags to hide the gifts from prying eyes on the way home.
“More than 15 members of the Manzanita team volunteered their time…,” said Jensen. “Education is more than learning in a classroom each day. We’re in this together, as a school, a district and as the Palmdale community.”
Manzanita Elementary, located on 33rd St. E. and Avenue Q-4, serves a vulnerable community, where almost nine out of 10 students are eligible for free or reduced lunch programs.
“Many of the parents have been excited and very grateful,” said Pettipas. “I’m grateful for the generosity of our community who made all of this possible. It’s another reason I love our Manzanita family.”