For the past 14 years, students in Margaret Brongo’s life skills class at Churchville-Chili Senior High School have handcrafted decorative holiday favors — from snowmen and angels to elves and penguins — and donated the money raised to local charities.
In 2018, students created and sold 319 holiday gnome beanbags. In March, they presented a check for $1,122.41, along with various wishlist items, to the Homesteads for Hope community farm.
The five students created the gnomes with brightly colored felt and rice, and even learned how to use a new sewing machine. They went to work creating marketing materials, selling, taking orders and collecting money from customers around the district’s schools. After researching local charities, they chose H4H to benefit from their work.
Students and school staff went on a field trip to visit the farm and present their donation. H4H program coordinator Rebecca Bruno and office manager Carolyn Eberhart welcomed students and gave them a tour of the campus. Jennyrae Brongo, board president and founder, met with them in the greenhouse, where daffodils were already blooming. She shared the story of the farm and of her brother, Chucky Brongo, who has autism and inspired her to create a place for people of all abilities.
Since 2005, life skills students have donated more than $12,350 to organizations such as the Golisano Children’s Hospital, Ronald McDonald House Charities, American Cancer Society, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Honor Flight, Make-A-Wish, Lollypop Farm, American Red Cross, School of the Holy Childhood, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Camp Smile, The Dream Factory and Gigi’s Playhouse.
Students had help this year from teaching assistant Laurie Kalwas, transition specialist Kim Spagnola and retired teacher Kathy Kristansen.
H4H promotes skills training, socialization, self-awareness and career exploration on an organically practiced farm along the Erie Canal in Ogden. It offers community classes, special events, and other opportunities for young people and their families. Visit for information.