Peters High School Interact club joins with Rotary to present toys to needy

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Christmas morning will be happier for dozens of children in Peters, thanks to the efforts of two local organizations.

Members of the McMurray Rotary Club and the Peters Township High School Interact Club gathered last Thursday to wrap gifts for youngsters who, because of family circumstances, otherwise might not find anything under the tree.

"Can you imagine a kid waking up and not having a present?" asked Don Angel, past president of the Rotary Club.

He helped to organize the Santa's Workshop event at Peace Lutheran Church, where the Peters Township Food Pantry holds its distributions. The pantry provided a list of recipient families, and Rotarians donated gifts for about 40 children.

The Interact Club, a Rotary-supported group focusing on community service, collected donated gifts for families served by Community Action Southwest, which provides support for residents of Washington and Greene counties.

"They're just families that really need help," said Megan Schwerzler, a senior at Peters Township High School who has been an Interact member since the club was started three years ago. She was among the dozen or so students who helped wrap gifts.

"We have so much, and we're so fortunate," she said. "Anything we can give back makes us feel good."

Other students in attendance expressed their enthusiasm for helping others.

"We're making their Christmas," sophomore Zachary Basar said. "A lot of kids can't afford this stuff."

Junior Kenna Kuehn, club vice president, agreed.

"It makes me feel good about myself," she said. "Helping another person is great, especially around Christmas."

Kenna was one of the forces behind another Rotary-Interact collaboration this year, a caroling fundraiser held Sunday afternoon.

Groups of students visited neighborhoods throughout Peters, accompanied by Rotarians. As they sang Christmas songs, they knocked on doors to ask for donations for the charitable organizations supported by the McMurray Rotary Club, which raised $32,000 for disbursement during 2013.

The club had held caroling events in previous Decembers but members were uncertain about holding it this year. Not so for the Interact students.

Kenna said the officers of the Interact Club talked about how much fun the students had at previous caroling fundraisers. "We said, 'We should try to do it again.' "

She emailed the Rotarians, who decided to proceed.

"They said, 'We're going to do it now because you're so excited about it.' "

Braving snow squalls and subfreezing temperatures, the students helped raise several hundred dollars.

"It was for a good cause, so that made it worth it to be cold," said sophomore Sabrina Liu, part of a group of five students who took part in the door-to-door caroling in three neighborhoods.

Tony LaRosa, also a sophomore, summed up the students' sense of satisfaction: "We made little kids smile."

The Interact Club, sponsored by Judy Alexander, the school district's gifted coordinator, has about 140 members, double from last year.

Club members recently participated in the Hundred Acres Manor haunted attraction at South Park to raise money for the Homeless Children's Fund and Animal Friends.

Harry Funk, freelance writer:

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