MTI Sacramento Community Service – Ask Santa Program

“‘What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills with no money…?’ said Scrooge indignantly” at the beginning of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. And indeed, the holidays can squeeze the wallet more than most would like and more than some would like to admit. It’s not easy filling the stockings and the base of the tree, especially as one grows older. More and more recipients appear in one’s life and, therefore, the need for more and more gift purchases. Unfortunately, we all fall on hard times once in a while – sometimes for quite a while. Circumstances get the best of us and we find Christmas day less than a week out and at the base of the tree we find nothing but a rug.

John Zimmerman, President of MTI College, understands this plight, and understands that it’s not always easy to ask for help when one needs it. Even when help is made available, it can be difficult – and for some even embarrassing – to ask. That is why Zimmerman created the Ask Santa Program at MTI College this year.

As the holiday buying season picked up, MTI College provided request forms to the student body. If a student could show that they were in genuine need of a certain item and simply couldn’t afford it or couldn’t spare enough to purchase it themselves, MTI played Santa and bought that gift for that student. Many of the requests were for simple items: gift cards to places like Target or Toys R Us, gas cards or, in one instance, something as simple as a $22 toy puppy for a child. However, some of the gifts were more specific like a human hair wig for a family member who had lost their hair from medical conditions. Of the 35-or-so requests that were turned in, nearly every single one of them was approved and the gifts given to the students in need.

Erin Atnip, a Future Professional on the “Be Nice or Else” team at Paul Mitchell the School – MTI College, expressed that it was “really generous of John [Zimmerman] to do that for everybody.” The Be Nice or Else Team (BNoE) participated in the Ask Santa Program by making the cards that would go with each gift for the students benefiting from the program. They designed and made 48 cards in all as well as a stack of Christmas cards for Dalton Dingus, a 9-year-old boy in Kentucky suffering from Stage Four Cystic Fibrosis who hopes to hold the Guinness Book of World Records title for receiving the most Christmas cards ever (as long as Guinness re-opens the category, his mother estimates that he will beat the 1992 record by a margin of some 300,000).

Atnip went on to say that, in addition to making the cards for Ask Santa and for Dingus, the BNoE team and many other MTI students went out in search of students in need. Michael Zimmerman, Director of Operations at MTI College, confirmed that the majority of requests turned in were not turned in by the Ask Santa recipients themselves, but by friends and fellow students making requests on their behalf. Atnip explained that there are a lot of students who are single moms, pregnant or otherwise struggling financially and simply needed some money for diapers or other basic needs, but couldn’t divert the money from utilities and rent to buy them. So she, the Be Nice or Else team and many other students from across the MTI campus stepped up and made the requests so that those in need could receive the help they needed. “Good inspires good,” she says, “that’s why the whole Forward Focused thing works.”

As the closing lines of Dickens’ famous ghost story go, “it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. Let that truly be said of us, and all of us!” And let it, indeed, be said that John Zimmerman and MTI College not only see and understand the challenges their students may face, but seek to help in increasingly out-of-the box and genuine ways. So as 2013 begins let us all recommit ourselves to live up to the example set by Ask Santa through the philosophy that Atnip stated so well: “good inspires good.”

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