As Christmas approaches, the FYI Center in Fairbury is gearing up for Project Santa, which aims to provide gifts for young people in need.
Darby Paulsen, who is organizing the program through the FYI Center’s Youth Leadership Council, is excited to see Project Santa reach people in need.
“A lot of the kids who come here to the FYI Center have no real way of getting their family members Christmas presents,” said Paulsen. “I was one of those kids, and I really wanted to show appreciation to my parents for all that they do. The FYI Center started taking donations of toys and gifts, and they started coming in in droves.”
Throughout the year, Paulsen explained, kids who come to the FYI Center have the option of volunteering their time cleaning, helping with homework and other activities. The time they spend volunteering is tracked. The young people with the most volunteer hours have first pick of the gifts.
“They get one toy or one gift for each person in their family,” Paulsen said. “We then wrap them and hang out with friends here at the FYI Center. This usually takes place the last day we have school before Christmas break, but we do a lot to decorate the center for Christmas.”
Paulsen explained that people who are interested in supporting Project Santa can bring donations to the FYI Center. She also encourages people to spread the word about Project Santa.
“I want more people to know about Project Santa and the FYI Center because we have a really good group of people here,” said Paulsen. “I’d love to see more high schoolers come to the Center to hang out and spend time here. It’s about making friendships with the kids and being mentors to them. This has been a big part of my life since I came to Fairbury. Everyone is welcome to come. It’s about making connections with people in your community.”