Donations exceeding $20,000 fund holiday gift bags for Palatine students in need

One of the largest monetary donations to Palatine High School is funding holiday gift bags this year for 130 students in financial need there, along with 30 more at Fremd High School and Academy North in Palatine.

The donation of more than $20,000 comes from local organizations Palatine Assisting Through Hope (PATH) and Palatine Faith in Action.

"We've been doing this for about eight years," Palatine High social worker Deana Havens said. "But there's an increased need each year."

Each gift bag will contain items for the students and their families such as hygiene products, hats, gloves, chargers, wireless earbuds and $100 in gift cards for food and other purchases.

Senior Kylie Rodriguez, who's been a volunteer helping stock and organize year-round donations to the school, said this year's donations will again be of great assistance to her family and others in need.

"It's made it a little easier for my family," she said. "I think we're all grateful for this because it's an opportunity for those who need it."

Parents and guardians are given the first opportunity to collect the bags, because for some they'll provide the only gifts they can share with family members. But some elect to have the students bring them home from the school.

Recipients have always demonstrated the deep gratitude and humbleness for the gifts, according to Havens and fellow social worker Tanya Britton.

But the first-time surprise for freshmen has sometimes resulted in tears or questions about whether there might be someone who needs it more, they added.

Freshman Manuel Ramirez said the gifts will add to the gratitude he already feels toward the school's social workers for helping him understand the connection between attendance and achievement earlier this fall.

Palatine Faith in Action is a united effort by some of the churches in the village, and took the responsibility for this year's gift card portion of the donation.

Susan Klemstein, who's both a co-leader of Faith in Action and the director of outreach & financial controller of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, said donors once again came through during the early collection period.

"We're just down the street from Palatine High School, so we're trying to be good neighbors," she said. "For our own congregation, it's become a tradition. For us, they get it."

PATH handled the donations for everything besides the gift cards.

Founders and board members Rich and Ramona Tyack have lived in the Palatine area for more than 30 years and their four children attended Palatine High.

According to the organization's website, PATH is the result a conversation between Rich Tyack and fellow board member Andy Konopka during a drive to Canada for a fishing trip. Their idea of helping the less fortunate in the Palatine community had become a plan of action by the time they got home.

"There's something very special about the Palatine community," Havens said.

"They're the definition of 'It takes a village,'" Britton agreed.

Social workers at Palatine High School gather 130 holiday gift bags about to be distributed to students and their families. The gift bags were funded by more than $20,000 in donations from two local charitable organizations. Courtesy of Patrick DeGeorge
Among the holiday gift bag items that will be distributed to 160 students in need among Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211's three Palatine campuses are hygiene products, hats, gloves, wireless earbuds, power chargers and $100 gift cards for food and household items. Courtesy of Patrick DeGeorge
Holiday gift bags for 130 students in need at Palatine High School are readied for distribution Monday, with 30 more going to Fremd High School and Academy North in Palatine. Courtesy of Patrick DeGeorge
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