Eleva-Strum (WQOW) - The holidays can bring out the best in us, and that's an understatement for one Eleva-Strum educator. This month's Jefferson Award winner, in the words of her students and co-workers, is an angel in disguise: Debbie Wright.
Every holiday season, a handful of high school helpers hit the stores to buy gifts for kids in need, but they aren't for Santa. Instead, it's for the Mrs. Clause of the Eleva-Strum School District.
Debbie Wright's flown with the Cardinals for nearly 20 years.
"I'm an aid in the classrooms to help kids with special needs or kids with difficulty learning," said Wright.
However, Wright's help goes beyond her duties with the district, especially during the holiday season.
"'Christmas From the Heart' started about 16 years ago, when we were given names of families that weren't able to have Christmas because they just didn't have any money," said Wright.
Debbie rallied the community for help, so those families could have their Christmas. From there, the idea blossomed into an annual tradition of giving that starts with a handful of hearts.
Each heart on the tree (pictured above), holds a wish from a family in need. Then, with their parents' permission, a child can take a heart home and answer that family's holiday wish.
This year, more than 30 families had their wishes granted.
"Every child gets an outfit, pajamas, underclothing, and socks, a family game for the whole family, and they all get a toy that they wish for," said Wright.
But that's not all. With the help of local organizations, farmers and churches, every family is given a box of food, along with winter clothing and blankets.
"There's been a lot of tears this year," said Wright. "In fact I had a dad come and pick up presents, I got tears in my eyes because he broke down and cried because he said 'I just feel so foolish, but my kids couldn't have Christmas this year without this help.'"
Wright said 'Christmas From the Heart' is growing every year, just as the number of families who need it. But thankfully she said there are more people giving now than ever before.
"Every kid should have Christmas," said Wright. "And this is what it's all about. And I think there is so much love in our communities and God taught us faith, hope and love. And the greatest is love. And this is how we are showing it."
If you know someone in the community making a difference through volunteering, nominate them for a Jefferson Award here.