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Gateway Academy Kids Share The Holiday Spirit
Sixth grader Moses Silva, 12, picks out a toothbrush to add to the holiday gift bag he is packing as part of the Gateway Academy project. Marg Jackson/The Times


Hard at work, students, teachers and volunteers with Escalon’s Gateway Academy fashioned poinsettias out of construction paper, then used glue guns to affix the brightly colored paper flowers to brown paper lunch bags.

Once dried, the bags were filled with a variety of small toiletries and other items and will soon be delivered to residents at the Heritage House senior complex in Escalon.

Teacher Brenda Fisher, who teaches the fifth through eighth grade levels at the charter school, said students were eager to take part in the holiday service project. They made bookmarks, helped prepare and fill the bags and will follow up that effort with a personal visit to deliver the bags on Dec. 17.

Sisters Dana Radford and Jana Ballance, whose children attend Gateway, brought the idea forward, and also collected many of the items that will make the gift bags a real treat.

Both their husbands work with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office and it was that county’s SWAT team, K9 unit and employee’s association that donated funds needed to purchase most of the items.

Each gift bag includes a small magnifying glass to help with reading fine print, lip balm, socks or gloves, nail clippers, gum, tissue, a toothbrush, note pad, and a small inspirational book.

“We wanted to do a service project,” said Ballance, whose son Aidan, 12, a seventh grader, was helping fill the bags and reviewing the checklist on Thursday to make sure every bag had the same contents. “This is just a little something special for the holidays.”

Fisher added that it’s the first time the classes have participated in this type of project and they are planning more community service efforts beginning in January. This was primarily a sixth through eighth grade project, she said.

Gateway has classes for transitional kindergarten up to eighth grade students and features core classes in addition to enrichment, ranging from sign language to units on insects.

They meet on the Dent Elementary campus, classrooms filling up the former office area there and including classes for TK through first grade, second through fourth and fifth through eighth grade levels.