By TASHA STEWART
The work is never done for those in the center, especially director Brandon Hillard. Barbourville Independent Schools Resource Center recently wrapped up its angel tree drive.
Hillard hit the ground running in July 2017, taking over the director position upon Robin Jones’ retirement.
“It was already a fantastic center to take over because of the diligent work Robin Jones did while she was here. She’s a fabulous person,” said Hillard.
Despite the new position, Hillard is not a stranger to BIS. He started at BIS in 2006 as the physical education and health teacher and girls’ basketball coach. After working in the Knox and Casey County school systems, Hillard returned to Barbourville, the one place that feels like home, with his family.
So far this year, the resource center has provided services for approximately 149 students in some capacity. Among those numbers are the 73 total children who participated in the angel tree at Christmas. While Hillard plays a role in organizing the annual drive, he could not have done it without the support from the school and community.
Hillard noted the help from Amy Collins, Brad Marsee, Joella Black, Hunter Jones, Jack and Evie Streit and Reagan’s Toy Drive was invaluable, each going above and beyond to make the angel tree a success this year.
For those unfamiliar, the angel tree “focuses on helping those who have fallen on difficult times… and tak[es] notice of our kids that we see on a daily basis and care about. It’s there that they could use a little act of kindness during the Christmas season and we look to satisfy that,” said Hillard.
Hillard’s program focuses on providing clothing for those in need. He furnishes coat, shirt, pant and shoe sizes to volunteers; the rest is up to them to decide what to buy for each student.
“That’s their money, their act of kindness… I don’t furnish the toys and things of that nature because G.I. Joe just doesn’t keep you warm,” continued Hillard.
Despite only focusing on clothing needs for the angel tree participants, Barbourville students did not go without toys this holiday season thanks to donations. Jack and Evie Streit from Columbus, Oh donated 140 individually wrapped gifts and Reagan’s Toy Drive also contributed, making sure every student at BIS did not go without.
BIS teachers were among the first to step up, taking on multiple angel tree students and helping deliver gifts during their Christmas break.
“The first day of distributing gifts, we loaded up buses, went into the community and teachers were hopping off buses to deliver gifts. The kids thought it was the greatest thing on the planet and the teachers thought it was the greatest thing on the planet to see the kids and the smiles on their faces,” said Hillard.
Without the selfless help from BIS teachers and the community donations, the angel tree would not have been the success that it was.
“It was just an awesome angel tree this year. It was really great,” said Hillard. “The thanks and the credit goes to the teachers and the community, for everyone who did their part in stepping up.”