SCARBOROUGH — When she greeted the grandfather who had come to pick up supply-filled backpacks for his young grandchildren, Mary Rollo, director of Project GRACE, realized her welcoming handshake might have lasted a moment too long.
“His eyes started to tear up,” she said.
Rollo said when she and volunteers for Project GRACE see how giving affects the recipients, it “energizes” them and provides the strength they need to do it again the next holiday.
Last week, they needed all the energy they could get as they shopped, gift-wrapped and organized in anticipation of the families who would soon come to St. Maximilian Kolbe Church to pick up presents for Christmas.
Many of the presents are donated by individuals and families who “adopt a family” by taking a tag from the Giving Tree.
“People are so generous in the community – we’ve gotten everything and some people have given double,” Rollo said.
But if there’s something on the families’ wish lists that is missing, volunteers use monetary donations to purchase them, she said.
The organization also collects used and new items all year long that are available as needed when recipients come to pick up their gifts.
While the push last week was to prepare gifts for pickup, Project GRACE, through its donors, provides considerable funding for fuel and bill assistance all year long. Rollo said between $3,000 to $5,000 a year is being donated for public school nutrition programs because there isn’t enough funding to feed many of the students who are hungry. In the younger grades, she said, students who didn’t bring a snack were required to raise their hands in front of their classmates to get one, which was embarrassing for some.
In high school, some students don’t have permanent residences because they are emancipated from their parents. Through Project GRACE, these students are given backpacks filled with peanut butter and jelly and bread so they won’t go hungry.
“In Scarborough, we’re fortunate enough that with all these resources we can do this and make an impact – the model works really well here,” Rollo said.
Because donors are primarily from Scarborough, most of the assistance goes to help residents of the town, though there are certainly exceptions. Since salaries for Rollo and Allison Spies (the only paid employees, with 40 combined hours between them) are supplied by separate funds donated for that purpose, those who choose to give to Project GRACE are assured that 100 percent of their donations will go directly to the people who need them.
“One precept we’re founded on is, ‘there is enough,’ and there really is,” Rollo said.
And, looking at the room in the church filled with presents just waiting to be picked up by grateful families, it’s hard to disagree with Rollo’s words.
“The giver and the receiver,” she said.”You’ve got to have both.”

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or [email protected]

Project GRACE gifts.jpgPresents awaited recipients last week as Project GRACE worked on assembling donations and wrapping added purchases at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church. Roberts photo
Fran Smith and Deb Baginski.jpgVolunteers Fran Smith, left, and Deb Baginskihelp wrap presents for Project GRACE at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church last week in preparation for pickup by recipients.
Roberts photo

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