Extra cheer was brought to six families this season with the Hey Girl holiday gift and toy drive. The holiday gift and toy drive ran between November 21 and December 16. Donations were either collected in person at the Fridley Community Center or through monetary donations given to Aloda Sims, Fridley Middle School’s family outreach liaison and Hey Girl leader.
Hey Girl (Growing, Independent, Responsible Leaders) is a program for girls ages 10-13 that provides a safe and fun space where girls can have freedom of expression and includes daily activities centered on leadership and community building. “Since we started six years ago, the Hey Girl program has always wanted to create a component of giving back to the community,” said Sims. “We want to help our girls understand that giving back really helps with self esteem and self confidence.”
This is the second year that the Hey Girl program was able to sponsor families through a gift and toy drive working with the district’s Early Childhood Learning Center and partnering with social worker Alaina Dehnke. Dehnke served as the liaison between the Hey Girl group and the families.
“I worked with the expertise and awareness of our preschool teachers and staff to find where extra care and attention could go this year,” said Dehnke. “The strong relationships we strive to make with our students and families make way for us to learn about their needs, wishes, and major life events.”
The students and families that were nominated received a phone call or message from Dehnke explaining the drive and asking if they would like to receive the gifts gathered. Dehnke noted that the spots filled up fast with excited and eager families.
“The girls are very excited! Some of the girls brought in gifts and toys to contribute,” said Sims. “It really shows them how giving back really impacts who they are and who they want to be as adults.”
Fridley Middle School fifth grader Taliyah Tanon said “I like giving back to the community and kids because there are
a lot of people out there that need help.” Seventh graders Shenette Julien and Heaven King both spoke to the idea of how giving to the community and those in need might inspire others to give back themselves one day in a “pay-it-forward” type of scenario.
“The beautiful part about this project is that the benefit is twofold. The families receive joy in the form of gifts and support during the holidays and the students of Hey Girl can feel an immense amount of pride and accomplishment for supporting their small but mighty Fridley community. Not to mention the generous giving of those who donated as well,” Dehnke said. “Being able to blend intentions and outcomes like this is a stellar model for future endeavors with Fridley students and families.”