W.Va. National Guard partners with Communities In Schools to distribute 8,000 Christmas gifts to students across 36 counties

CHARLESTON, WV — The West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) has coordinated with the Office of First Lady Cathy Justice and Communities In Schools (CIS) to help staff the organization for pickup and delivery of 8,000 Christmas gifts for CIS Case Managed Students in 36 counties across West Virginia.

“This is the second year that we have done this initiative, and it has been personally rewarding for everyone that has volunteered,” First Lady Justice said. “The Governor and I sincerely thank everyone involved, especially WVNG Adjutant General William Crane and Senior Master Sgt. Brandon Layman.”

Cynthia Sorsaia and Tracy Komorowski, CIS Program Coordinators at the West Virginia Department of Education, worked together with WVNG Senior Master Sgt. Layman to lead the project.

“This was a monumental task because the number of gifts we received doubled this year compared to last year,” Sorsaia said. “Senior Master Sgt. Layman directed the entire operation. Everything went so smoothly. We are appreciative of this opportunity to help children through the generosity of the Dream Tree for Kids initiative and the great effort by the West Virginia National Guard for making all this possible.”

The CIS program is the First Lady’s not-for-profit education initiative that is active in 36 counties across the state. The program works to forge community partnerships and bring resources into schools to help remove barriers to student learning with a goal of keeping all students in school and ultimately graduating.

The foundation of the program is the Site Coordinator, who builds relationships that empower students to stay in school and succeed in life. These Site Coordinators work inside schools in partnership with school staff to identify challenges facing students in school or at home. They bridge this need with resources through neighboring community partners that provide various levels of support.

“We have already heard from many of the Site Coordinators that the children are absolutely elated with the gifts they’ve received,” Komorowski said. “This project is making so many children feel happy and loved. None of this would have been possible without the Dream Tree for Kids and the West Virginia National Guard.”

“Our team very much enjoyed helping execute this initiative with the wonderful agencies involved, including the Office of First Lady Justice,” Senior Master Sgt. Layman said. “To know that we are helping many children and families whom we have never met, makes it all the more meaningful at Christmas time.”

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