Dec. 15, 2017

Story by Joe Shearer

Achiever Freelance Writer

When William Penn School 49 needs a Christmas miracle, Principal Corye Franklin calls on “The Faithful Few, and this year they delivered — saving Christmas for many of the school’s students from a Grinch of a year.

William Penn Christmas Miracle

The Faithful Few is Franklin’s nickname for William Penn’s Parent Involvement Educator Jacqueline Wilkinson, PTA Treasurer Michelle Morris, and PTA Secretary Sarah Medina. With a reputation for sticking with a plan and getting results, The Faithful Few is an institution at the school.

“They’re very consistent,” said Franklin. “It always seems like it’s those three who galvanize things. They always prepare ahead of time, and they do it all as a team. They do great work.”

An estimated 98 percent of the school’s students live at or below the poverty level, which means Christmas gifts for their families are often very small or even nonexistent. For the past several years, through a private donor, the school has provided more than 100 students and their families with gifts, giving them something to open Christmas morning when they otherwise would not have anything.

But in late October, the school learned that its regular Christmas donor would not be able to assist this year, potentially putting a damper on the holiday season. Having supported 100 students the year before, this left a large gap in Christmas spirit at the school.

That’s when The Faithful Few leapt into action, emerging like a superhero team.

Over the course of the next three weeks, the women launched an impromptu donor search, visiting local businesses, drafting a letter, and making telephone calls — appealing to the community to help its own. They also reallocated some of the school’s PTA funds to buy gifts.

“They were very tenacious in their efforts,” said Franklin. “They worked tirelessly to reach out to community partners here and far out to support families.”

They secured donations from Five Below in Plainfield, as well as the American Legion Post 64, Residential Services, and Love Hands Giveaway. Plus, three private donors (who wish to remain anonymous) sponsored individual families.

“I knew instantly that we would get donations,” Morris said. “We were not letting these children go with no gifts for Christmas. We were not going to be told no. For me, my vision was me sitting with my own kid opening presents on Christmas morning. And I don’t want to envision his friend not being able to open presents.”

The Faithful Few actually surpassed their goal, receiving enough donated items to help 120 of the school’s families for the holiday — 20 more than last year.

“We refused to accept that we were not going to be able to help the children,” Thomas said. “If we had failed, those 120 students probably would not have had Christmas. Failure was not an option.”

For The Faithful Few, it was business as usual.

“What they did really embodies and contributes to our school mission, which is ‘Forward,’” said Franklin. “They took a last-minute change and moved it forward using their own resources and coordinated their efforts to help more than 100 families. That’s extremely admirable.”