The eyes of 4-year-old Alizea and 16-month old Julius flashed fear as they were led Monday into a room of carol-singing Spokane Community College students.
Then their eyes and faces softened as they were handed a pile of Christmas gifts to restore the holiday cheer to a family that was dislocated by a Nov. 12 fire in which they lost everything.
“I’m really thankful,” mother Kandra Warren, 24, said. “I cried so much the first two weeks. I didn’t expect this huge thing. This is really nice.”
An electrical fire burned into the attic of Warren’s rental home. In her second year at Spokane Community College, Warren was delayed in attending the ceremony so she could finish a final exam. With the help of the local Red Cross, she and her children have been staying in a hotel since the fire.
“We just got approved for a house rental,” she said. “We spent all of our money on the hotel and new house.”
Other students learned of Warren’s predicament, and the Rho Beta Psi club put out Mason jars for the past month to gather donations. It’s part of a decadeslong outreach program by the school’s criminal justice department in which it works to provide a Christmas for a family in need.
By the end, the club raised about $600 for gifts for Warren’s kids. Julius held up his new truck and waved it up and down. Alizea’s eyes blazed as she held up a case of new coloring pencils in front of her gaping smile.
“We probably had more fun picking out the gifts than the kids will have playing with them,” said Michaela Rubertt, the treasurer for Rho Beta Psi. “We mainly bought toys for the children and small things for the parents that we thought would help.”
Warren said she was told that she was part of the program but didn’t know the extent of the generosity. “It’s a little overwhelming,” she said. “This makes me want to help someone next year.”
Mike Morlan, the SCC criminal justice department lead, explained how the students picked Warren for the outreach.
“All of this was done by the hard work of the RBS to make sure you have a Christmas,” Morlan said. “We are so grateful for the opportunity to give you gifts and be here for you.”
Samantha “Sam” Gilson, who just graduated with an associate degree in criminal justice, helped Rubertt purchase the gifts for Warren and her children
“That was just awesome,” Gilson said after watching the children open the pile of presents. “It makes everything so worthwhile. Seeing them super happy was the best thing I could have hoped for. It makes you feel really good helping a family in need.”
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