“To give is one of the greatest gifts one could ever receive.”
— Linda Perry

Two weeks before Christmas, The New Life School’s Director of Admissions
Ayodele Saromi turns into a power shopper. That’s because he’s prepping for one of the school’s major events, the annual pop-up Holiday Store. “I’m out shopping every night and Saturday as well,” he says. “I don’t mind going the extra mile.”

Every holiday season, LSSNY and The New Life School combine Ayodele’s
shopping expeditions with donated new items from the Lutheran Church network, community organizations, and individuals, such as nice coats and other winter clothes. That way, the students at the school can select gifts for themselves, their families, and their friends.

“This year, we let the students pick out three items,” says Ayodele. “I saw the kids picking out electronics for themselves, a scarf set for mom, cologne for dad, and fuzzy socks and toys for their siblings.”

Literally every student at The New Life School received electronics accessories, something they look forward to. Selected stores from this year and last include Forman Mills, Kmart, and Five Below — “a great place for one-stop-shopping,” according to Ayodele, for electronics, toys, and cooking materials for family members and kids of all ages.

Then Ayodele and his team get busy dressing up the tables and laying out the toys like a storefront. Two nights prior to the three-day holiday store event, kids from the after-school program help set up the large holiday backdrop from Party City.

The photos don’t tell the whole story. That is, behavior support staff assist one of The New Life students in remaining calm and staying busy wrapping gifts. A mom is encouraged to help wrap gifts as a way to stay engaged. Paraprofessionals, otherwise known as student aides, provide additional support to some of the children, accompanying them throughout the day, as well as assisting them academically. That’s because The New Life School is a special education program which serves children who need extra education. The school children range in age from third grade through high school and continuing education.

Yes, those are pajamas some of the children are wearing. “That was Pajama Day,” says Ayodele. “We had a Spirit Week —a Whacky Day (wearing crazy color combos), a Pajama Day, and a Twin Day. It boosts morale of the students and staff and gives them something to talk about as we go into the winter break. We left on a
high note.”

Talk about the gift that keeps on giving.