FRAMINGHAM – Wayside Youth & Family Support Network received $15,000 in holiday gifts from the Wayland Middle School PTO’s Holiday Gift Drive.
As a result, more than 80 youth living in residential programs on Wayside’s Framingham Campus will have presents to open on Christmas morning.
For the past four years the Wayland Middle School PTO has rallied the community and provided gifts for youth living on Wayside’s campus during the holidays. Until this year, several members of the PTO and middle school students visited the campus to wrap dozens of presents.
“We are so fortunate for the generosity the Wayland community has shown our kids over the years, especially now when so many people are struggling,” said Tim Hagen, residential director. “This year, because of COVID, it’s particularly difficult for social service and nonprofit organizations to provide gifts because people aren’t visiting places where they would normally give. Wayland residents more than filled the gap.”
Colleen Morneweck, a Wayland resident and special education surrogate parent for adolescents in state custody, started the gift drive after learning that staff at group homes she worked with were paying for holiday gifts out of their own pockets. While there are many programs that provide holiday gifts to children, there are sadly very few for adolescents and teens who are often forgotten this time of year, she said.
Morneweck decided to help and asked friends to purchase gift cards to pay for gifts and received thousands of dollars in gift cards. The next step she took it one step further and created the PTO Holiday Gift Drive for youth in group homes at Wayside. The gift drive has expanded beyond the PTO to the larger community and is met with more enthusiasm and generosity each year, she said.
“This program has been so rewarding and I’m thrilled to be a part of it each year,” said Morneweck. It’s a great way to involve our kids but also to help in a small way to let the adolescents at Wayside know that they are valued and there are people in their community who care.”
For the last several years Wayside’s residential staff have created Amazon Wish Lists with gifts specially selected for each youth on campus.
The Wayland PTO was able to purchase 100 gifts from the list this year.
Founded in 1977, Wayside Youth & Family Support Network is a non-profit, nationally accredited human services agency headquartered in Framingham, dedicated to building strength, hope and resiliency through its family-based outreach services, residential treatment programs, and community-based counseling services to thousands of children, youth, and families throughout Central, Eastern and Northeastern Massachusetts.