Good News Sunday: Students at Elgin's Washington Elementary get surprise holiday party, gifts, visit from Santa

This is Good News Sunday, a compilation of some of the more upbeat and inspiring stories published recently by the Daily Herald:

Eyes got big and smiles got even bigger Tuesday morning as a special potbellied guest walked into the lunchroom a couple of minutes late to a surprise holiday celebration at Washington Elementary School in Elgin.

A jolly, bearded fellow in a red suit waved to an enthralled roomful of kindergartners who went wild.

"This is the best day ever!" kindergartner Karter Ahamed yelled out.

Karter and his schoolmates in kindergarten through sixth grade were treated to a winter wonderland celebration put on by the Boys and Girls Club of Elgin and a team from the Elgin Meijer store.

Meijer donated $10,000 for gifts and treats for the 360 students at the Elgin Area School District U-46 school.

A team from the store and the club decorated Monday night and kept the plan a secret from students and teachers until they were called down to the room.

Principal Lori Brandes said between 85% and 90% of the school's students qualify for free lunches.

"For some of our kids, they might not have the opportunity at home to have gifts or a tree or to see Santa, so this gives them that great experience," she said.

For the full story, click here.

  Paul Leong of Mundelein picks up a miter saw from the Mundelein Tool Library to help him build an igloo out of wood. Brian Hill/

Tool lending library keeps ratcheting up interest

Demand may not be high for the 20-foot level recently added to the Mundelein Tool Library's inventory, but like the 1,180 other items available to check out, it's there if you need it.

That's the premise of the all-volunteer organization that operates like a typical library - offering tools rather than books - out of an old public works building at 428 N. Chicago Ave. in downtown Mundelein.

There is a voluntary membership fee of $20, but there's no charge to check out items, which typically are due back in a week. The tool library is open from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturdays.

Since the concept was introduced to Mundelein officials about three years ago, the library has organized as a nonprofit, secured space from the village, and grown beyond expectations in the number of members (about 450) as well as tools and geographic reach. The library is said to be the first of its kind in Lake County.

"We think we're doing a good job," said Van Miller, a retired physical education teacher and founding member.

For the full story, click here.

Computer Aided Drafting student and Conant High School sophomore Emma Martchenkov was named the winner of Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211's latest competition for house design. She's pictured with her instructor, Jeff Robinson. Courtesy of District 211

Conant student wins drafting competition for a house build

When Emma Martchenkov was young, she enjoyed playing a game on the video platform Roblox called "Bloxsburg," in which the player designs and builds houses in a virtual community.

When she started her freshman year at James B. Conant High School in Hoffman Estates, she decided she wanted to try doing it on a real-life scale, so she enrolled in Conant's Computer Aided Drafting classes.

In December, Martchenkov, now a sophomore, competed in the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 CAD competition, where two students from each school presented their designs to a panel of judges with the hopes that their house would be the next one built by students in the district's building construction program.

Following a lengthy deliberation, Martchenkov was declared the winner.

"I am excited and pretty surprised that I won," she said. "But I came in here determined."

Jeff Robinson, an Applied Technology teacher at Conant, shared Martchenkov's excitement.

"Emma has come in before school and stayed late after school working on her design," he said. "There have been a lot of variations and changes, but she worked through them to come up with the win."

Construction of the house will begin during the 2024-2025 school year, when Martchenkov is a senior. She said she plans to visit the construction site to watch the progress.

For the full story, click here.

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