Elm Street School students experience the ESSence of Giving at Saturday event

LACONIA — A new holiday event at Elm Street School which provided students with an opportunity to select and gift-wrap Christmas gifts for their family members and loved one proved to be an instant success Saturday.
Known as "The ESSence of Giving", the event seems destined to become a long-lasting tradition at the school, according to Kevin Michaud, principal at the school, who said that he couldn't have been happier with the large turnout.
''Seeing the smile on the kids faces as they wrapped the presents and took them out was just priceless. It was something that embraced all the kids and is a little step for all of those involved to help build a better child,'' said Michaud.
He said that his major contribution was to provide a name for it and that since Elm Street School is usually referred to as ESS that was a simple task.
He credited first grade teacher Donna-Marie Gamlin for coming up with the idea for the program and said she worked hard with other members of the Elm Street School community to organize the event and encourage people to provide gifts which the students could then select and wrap for their family members.
''The best thing is that it didn't cost one cent. Every gift was donated by some very generous and thoughtful people,'' said Gamlin, who estimated that at least 30 volunteers were involved in Saturday's event by bringing the collected gifts to the school, setting up tables in the gym where the gifts were displayed and helping the children wrap the gifts.
Gamlin said that by mid-morning at least 40 families had shown up to take part with two hours still left for gifts to be selected.
Leftover gifts were going to the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, along with cash that was collected at collection canisters set up in the hall and inside the library.
Parents waited in the school library while students were selecting and wrapping gifts so as not spoil any surprises and were served hot cocoa and snacks while waiting.
Gamlin said that people from all parts of the community contributed age appropriate gifts and that she hopes the event will continue to grow in popularity in the years ahead.
''There was so much enthusiasm here today and it was just wonderful to see,'' said Gamlin.

Karter Dolloff, 10, and Kaden Dolloff, 7, along with their mother, Kimber, hold gifts the two boys selected and wrapped for family members at the ''ESSence of Giving'' event held Saturday at Elm Street School in Laconia. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)