St. Agatha students Grant Ellison, Theo Pashley, Hanna Dropinski, Michael Hanna, Joey Wade, Chris Rusth, Ty Takashima, Celia Wenz and Austin Stephens pose with “St. Nicholas.” As part of the school’s annual Advent service projects, St. Agatha students collected hundreds of toys for Morrison Child and Family Services Center. (Courtesy St. Agatha)
St. Agatha students Grant Ellison, Theo Pashley, Hanna Dropinski, Michael Hanna, Joey Wade, Chris Rusth, Ty Takashima, Celia Wenz and Austin Stephens pose with “St. Nicholas.” As part of the school’s annual Advent service projects, St. Agatha students collected hundreds of toys for Morrison Child and Family Services Center. (Courtesy St. Agatha)
St. Agatha School students donated more than 450 toys to Morrison Child and Family Services Center families as part of the Southeast Portland school’s annual Advent service project. That’s an average of two gifts from every St. Agatha student. Each year the school selects a different charity to focus on during Advent.

“This project made my Christmas better because I wasn’t just focused on receiving I was giving,” said seventh-grader Grant Ellison, who was on the team leading the project.

The Morrison Child and Family Services Center’s goal is to provide effective and responsive services for children and youths coping with adversity and trauma.

The school’s youth ministry, a team of elected middle school students, delivered three carloads of gifts to the center the day before Christmas break. Donations ranged from coloring books and board games to toys and blankets for children to help make their holiday wishes come true.

“It was great to see how happy the staff was when we delivered the toys,” said youth ministry leader and eighth-grader Ceclia Wenz. “I don’t think they’re used to seeing kids collect so many gifts for other kids.”

St. Agatha Principal Chris Harris was delighted to see so many donations. “It is great to see our students report feeling more excited about gift-giving than gift-receiving,” he said.

Tracie Swanson, the school music teacher and Morrison Center volunteer, and Amber Redoble, the youth ministry moderator, worked with the students to also write letters and draw artwork. They plan to continue to send letters to the center throughout the year.