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Students volunteering at CoNSERNS-U Christmas StoreIn just a few hours’ time on Friday morning, students from Columbia High School and Howard L. Goff Middle School transformed an empty gymnasium into a festive Christmas Store at CoNSERNS-U in the city of Rensselaer. Students from various clubs and programs made their annual trip to volunteer at the store that serves low-income families, sorting and arranging toys, games, books and clothing alongside other volunteers.

“This means everything,” said Colleen Pidgeon, CoNSERNS-U Program Coordinator. “We need many, many bodies and they fill that need. We certainly need the students to have the store happen and bring joy to so many.”

The Christmas Store is open Monday and Tuesday for parents to come in and select new gifts for free so every child may have a happy Christmas.

“It’s very rewarding to know families who are not so fortunate can come and get brand new toys for Christmas,” said 12th grader Aliyah Hamid, co-president of Columbia Peer Leadership. “It’s become a tradition at Columbia, which is great. I know when I leave next year it will continue.”

Other school groups volunteering included Operation Graduation, Jump Start, CTAEP, the Columbia Alternative Program and Goff Student Council.

Goff students spent the first part of their morning purchasing gifts for the Christmas Store with the $2,600 they raised during the fall. Then, wearing necklaces with flashing colored light bulbs, they delivered the presents to CoNSERNS-U and helped arrange the store.

“It was great to see the students at Walmart shopping,” said Goff Student Council Advisor Megan Lopez. “They thought aloud with one another about who would like what items and what they should buy. It was nice to see all 66 Student Council members proudly shopping for those in need. Holidays are truly amazing.”

Student shopping for Christmas gifts

Students volunteering at CoNSERNS-U Christmas Store

Students volunteering at CoNSERNS-U Christmas Store

Students volunteering at CoNSERNS-U Christmas Store