WEST MILFORD - Staff and Student Council volunteers from Macopin Middle School gathered after school hours on Dec. 12 to gift wrap donations collected through the school's annual “Giving Tree” program. The wrapped gifts were then delivered to designated distribution sites to be given to local families in need of gifts for the holidays.Macopin teachers Art Joecks and Rich Dygos began the Giving Tree program at Macopin school “well over 10 years ago,” according to Joecks. The program has grown tremendously during its past 11 “official” years running annually, with donations coming in from the school community as well as from residents of the community in general. Joecks said that more students and teachers volunteer for the program at Macopin each year to help wrap all of the donated gifts; “We had about 30 kids there this year.”Joecks said he and Dygos are thankful for all of the Student Council officers, student Homeroom Class Representatives and Macopin teachers Andrea Jones, Mary Bozenmayer, Abigail Alexander, Joseph Andriulli, Gregg Vetter, and Linda Begley; who were extremely generous in volunteering their time and efforts to help with the program this year. How it worksDuring the past 11 years and beyond, Joecks and Dygos have assisted the Macopin Middle School Student Council in coordinating the annual “Giving Tree” book and toy drive. The program runs from early November until the second week in December. Donations from the community, such as new toys, games, and new or gently used books, are collected at the school, and then gift wrapped by the Student Council members to be distributed to less fortunate children and families during the holiday season through local organizations.Through the Giving Tree Program, the Macopin Student Council seeks to give the “gift of literacy” to local families... every gift donated is paired with an age-equivalent children's book.“The gifts are donated by either parents, students, or people from around town," Joecks said. "They can drop the gifts off anytime they wanted to.” On “wrapping day”, the students and staff volunteers meet in the school cafeteria after school to wrap all of the donations. They work on the project for several hours, sometimes over a day or two- until all of the gifts are wrapped.Staff member volunteers assisted the students by sorting the donations, bringing gifts to the students at their wrapping stations, providing additional wrapping materials as needed, and collecting the wrapped gifts to pack up for delivery.“The wrapping was done mostly by the Student Council and the student Homeroom Representatives” Joecks said. The wrapped gifts are then brought to several area churches as coordinated by Joecks and Dygos, and to the West Milford Elks Club for their Toys for Tots collection.These organizations then distribute the gifts to area children and families who may otherwise not be able to experience the joy of giving during the holiday season.Spreading holiday spirit Thanks to the continuing charitable work of Joecks, Dygos, the Macopin School Student Council members, and Macopin staff volunteers, the “Giving Tree” program has spread through the community and beyond. Using Macopin’s Giving Tree program as a model, the concept has since been implemented in other area schools and community organizations seeking to help those in need.Collection sites and toy drives were held by local sports and athletic organizations, student clubs, youth and adult civic organizations, and even local businesses throughout West Milford Township and beyond.