Sunday, December 16, 2018
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20181120 AngelsWith most high school students enjoying their Thanksgiving break by spending time with family, 150 students from Pioneer High School spent their break volunteering.

Last week, students from several clubs and organizations in the campus volunteered at the Palm Valley Animal Shelter in McAllen and completed the Christmas shopping for 250 children from low-income families in the Valley.

On Monday, Nov. 19, a total of 150 students showed up to the Walmart Supercenter on 2800 W Nolana Ave. to participate in the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program.

In the program that began in 1979, tags decorated with angels are placed on Christmas trees in several stores around the area. The angel tags have a child’s first name, age and Christmas wishes. Shoppers can pick up a tag and shop for the children so their families can provide gifts for them this Christmas.

According to a spokesperson with the Salvation Army, 2,275 children in the county from low-income families received Christmas gifts last year as a result of this program.

Thanks to a $20,000 donation from an anonymous donor, the 150 students at Pioneer were able to shop for 250 children.

“It gives people a chance to experience Christmas the way everyone should.” Alejandro Vasquez, a sophomore said. “This is my second year doing this and last year I thought that this was a great way to experience bringing joy to others. That’s the purpose of the holidays.”

Renee Huddleston, a Career Technical Education Counselor at Pioneer High School supervised the students at work. She said this was the 4th year their campus has participated in the Angel Tree program.

“All the students participating show that we have a unique student body that is so selfless,” Huddleston said. “They put themselves aside and step in to help out. It’s amazing, they could be sleeping in, but they’re giving up 4 hours of their time and loving it. They’re not getting anything out of it, they do it because they care.”

Shoppers wanting to buy gifts for children under the Salvation Army Angel Tree program have until Monday, Dec. 10, to do so. The gifts will then be distributed to parents on Dec. 17.

The following day, 15 students from the campus’ Pets are Worth Saving club showed up to the Palm Valley Animal Shelter and spent their morning there cleaning up the kennels.

The students from the PAWS club-an adoption program in partnership with the shelter which also educates students on proper pet care-spent their morning washing and drying several dozen loads of blankets and towels for the shelter.

According to Andy De La Cruz, an instructor and sponsor of the PAWS Club at Pioneer, blankets and towels are needed at the shelter to clean the dogs and also keep them warm during the cold weather.

Each student was required to bring a new towel to be donated to the shelter, De La Cruz added. Students sorting through the dirty laundry wore face masks throughout the morning.

“A lot of people think that volunteering at an animal shelter means playing with dogs. This is the dirty work a lot of people don’t see,” De La Cruz said. “There’s several dozen loads of laundry here the students need to take care of and it smells horrible, but I’m proud these students aren’t afraid of digging in and doing their
part.”

For Izella Olgin, a junior and the events coordinator for PAWS who regularly volunteers at the shelter, the volunteering opportunity provided her classmates with a chance to learn more about the shelter.

“I don’t think people realize how much help the shelter needs,” Olgin said. “There’s not enough people helping them usually and I hope that the ones who truly see the need end up helping.”