Houlton Region

Celebrating the holidays at Houlton Elementary

HOULTON, Maine — A Christmas tradition for Houlton Elementary School students is to shop for their families at the school’s “Holiday Store.”

The students bring in their money and the first day are allowed to buy two items, that way all  400 students have an opportunity to purchase something. The next day, students can shop for other family members. They love looking at the gift items offered and sometimes have a difficult time not selecting something for themselves.

This year one little girl in pre-k told her teacher earlier in the year that she had three sisters. Knowing of the family and that they had three boys, the teacher asked what about your brothers? She answered very seriously, “Who are they?”

So when she came to the Holiday Store she bought gifts for her mom and dad and “three others.” Since volunteer students and other school staff help wrap, no one caught on that the three other items were amiss. However, when she got home her mother asked who Ella, Kerri and Nilla were? Her response “my sisters”! Christmas will be fun for this family!

As the bags of gift wrapped items go home, some make it all the way under the tree, while others are opened by the recipient immediately. The keeping of the surprise just too exciting to wait. Many dads will be surprised with goofy holiday shirts, light up hats and even mirrors with Buzz Lightyear or Nemo decals, but it is the thought that counts.

As inventory dwindles and left over items are repacked for next year Principal Candy Crane starts the shopping all over again, finding those after Christmas markdown items from stores throughout the state to make her students Christmas a little brighter.

This year an added treat for students was the Holiday Train brought in by Dr. Frank Thompson of Littleton. As part of Houlton Rotary Club’s effort to have volunteers come into local schools, Thompson volunteered to set  his train display up at both Houlton Elementary School and Houlton Southside.

He became interested in trains at the age of nine when he received a Lionel train for Christmas. Ever since then, he has collected more. He has seven trains, a trolley, 22 Department 56 Snow Village buildings and accessories that include: people, animals, cars and trucks. He creates a variety of layouts each year. Thompson said that it has been a fun and educational hobby and he’s shared it with his children and  grandchildren.

On several occasions he and his wife have hosted an open house for guests to see the display at Christmas. He enjoys seeing the smiles and delight of the children when the train circles the track.

Photos courtesy of Karen Donato

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