In the midst of a most unusual semester, Govs students still got in the spirit of the season of giving and donated presents to more than 100 local area children for Ozzie’s Kids, a program that has been providing support and holiday gifts to Haverhill children for over 30 years. The Govs community has become a key donor over the past decade.
Ozzie’s Kids was established more than three decades ago by Osmond "Ozzie" Hardy, a longtime Haverhill police officer. He passed away last year, but the tradition continues on thanks to his daughter Khristina Hardy, who has taken over leadership of the organization. The involvement of many local businesses, schools, and church groups holding toy collection drives around the holidays, along with the individual donors who raise funds and purchase gifts for children in need, continues to grow each year.
Before Thanksgiving, Ozzie's Kids gives Govs a list of children from families in need, and this year, the involvement by the community was so great, Govs asked for more names of children to sponsor.
“I am so impressed to see the Govs community come together like this,” said Govs student leader Aleem ‘22. “We do outreach to students and families in the fall, so when we received 80 names, and we had more sponsors than names, we asked Ozzie’s Kids for more and ended up with 109 kids. We were able to give even more to those kids,” said Aleem. “To know that faculty members, staff, students, and parents could make that kind of an impact on these kids’ lives, well, that's overwhelming.”
Student leaders organized the entire effort, working with teachers, students, and their families to raise funds and purchase gifts. While this year was a little different, students both near and far could still participate, working remotely to organize logistics and follow up with the nearly 400 sponsors.
“Being involved means that I can give the children the holiday that they deserve and put smiles on their faces, even if most of us aren’t there to see it,” said Eric ‘22.
Fellow leader Nia ‘22 has been involved for two years starting as a volunteer then moving into a shadow role.
“In typical years, we go to the annual holiday party and give out gifts,” said Nia. “While we can’t be there in person this year, I am excited to still be involved. I remember the kids’ faces. They were so funny and nice. Kids are so truthful, so you can really tell that they loved it. How could I not smile? It’s a win-win.”
Each year Ozzie's Kids distributes toys and clothes to about 1,000 children from Haverhill families in need. Each child receives five to seven gifts, including toys and winter clothing, such as coats, hats, and gloves.
This year, Assistant Head of School and Academic Dean Elaine White, along with her husband and junior Olivia ‘22, delivered the gifts to the town hall where they will be distributed to the children.
With other volunteers, Mr. and Mrs. White and Olivia made an assembly line where they unloaded two very full Govs buses. In addition to the gifts, Mrs. White and Olivia brought several direct financial donations, as well as a special donation.
Last year, Olivia and several other students participated in a Govs entrepreneurial seminar where they were given seed money to start a business. Their business idea of selling Christmas signs to celebrate the holiday season was successful, and they found themselves with over $1,000 profit to keep or donate.
“I am so grateful for the Govs community that made our entrepreneurial project a success — it was a really rewarding process,” said Olivia. “And in turn, we were able to donate the money to continue Govs annual giving tradition of making the holidays a reality for these kids.”
“The event is normally a countdown to Christmas for these kids,” said Aleem. “So it is great that even though we’re in a pandemic, knowing that we could still make a difference and help families who are stressed out, it's worth it.”
To learn more about Ozzie's Kids, vist Facebook.com/ozzies.kids.
To read The Eagle Tribune's article on Ozzie's Kids and the Academy's involvement, click here.