Financial inequality leads to new view of holidays

GIFT OF GIVING: Freshman Jennifer Vargas receives a gift from Glenview Youth Services, an organization that has provided financial assistance to her and her family during the holiday season for many years. Photo by Ashley Clark

GIFT OF GIVING: Freshman Jennifer Vargas receives a gift from Glenview Youth Services, an organization that has provided financial assistance to her and her family during the holiday season for many years. Photo by Ashley Clark

Leah Dunne, asst. features editor

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Throughout South’s diverse student body, holiday experiences differ from person-to-person. With the holidays also comes both gift giving and receiving. However, some families in the South community lack the financial means necessary to enjoy this part of the season the way other people do, calling for aid from other members of the community.

For freshman Jennifer Vargas and her family, their holidays do not revolve around extravagant gifts, but rather spending time with one another. According to Vargas, her family has been receiving gifts from Glenview Youth Services for quite some time, and although she recently found out that her family had been receiving this financial assistance, she explained that it has not changed her perception of her family’s holiday experience.

“I remember a couple of weeks ago my mom told us to write a list of what we wanted [for Christmas],” Vargas said. “[My mom] took me to Youth Services, and she had our wish list, which contained what each of my family members wanted. I kind of already knew we were [receiving financial aid] because, when I was younger, we would always get toys, and now we usually just get clothes and shoes…[My family and I] are very grateful.”

With programs such as gift wrapping from Youth Services, aid to recipients like Vargas and her family also becomes very possible. According to sophomore Alexandria Shaw, holiday wrapping with Youth Services was an event she decided to participate in during her freshman year with Key Club.

“I went to [holiday wrapping] with a bunch of friends, and it was really fun because we got to actually wrap the presents for kids that otherwise may not be receiving any [presents] that year,” Shaw said. “It felt good to be able to give back to so many people; there were tons and tons of presents to be wrapped.. [The holidays] aren’t all about receiving. I think it’s important to give back to others, too.”

Similar to Vargas, sophomore Anna Widner* has received financial aid through holiday wrapping with Youth Services in past years. Widner explained how growing up, her family was not as financially stable as they are now, so they would receive the gifts through the organization.

“[Youth Services] brought so much joy to my family and I because we all thought we weren’t going to get Christmas presents that year,” Widner said. “To know that we got [presents] through volunteers and schools, we just felt so blessed. I did holiday wrapping last year, and it just made me think, ‘They did this for me when I was younger.’ I felt like I was helping out [others] by doing the wrapping, and I have been in [the recipients’] shoes at one point, so I know how they feel.”

Sophomore Jessica Heath* shares the same sentiments as the Vargas and Widner families regarding the holidays, as she has also received financial assistance growing up prior to attending South. Heath explained that in the past she had struggled with her family’s financial situation in comparison to her peers, so they use the holiday season to bond instead of sharing gifts.

“I remember two years ago when I was in eighth grade, Uggs were the new thing, and all my friends would say, ‘Oh, I got Ugg boots and a 200 dollar gift card, and a new game set’, and they would just keep [adding to] their list,” Heath said. “It was hard when my friends would always show me pictures of their presents and wear new clothes. They were so excited.”

However, Heath now explains how her perspective has changed drastically, and for Christmas, she no longer has a desire to receive materialistic items. Heath noted how she enjoys not actually receiving tangible gifts, but rather receiving through her experiences she shares with friends and family throughout the holiday season.

“I don’t have that feeling I had when I was in middle school about gifts or really see the meaning in presents,” Heath said. “I have nothing on my Christmas list; I’m just excited to spend time [with my family]…We all know that we are each other’s best friends and since we are family, we can always trust each other, especially during the holidays.”

*names have been changed

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