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Fourth grader helps spread holiday cheer to children at homeless shelter in York City

Ron Musselman
York Dispatch
Maximus Morales, 9, a fourth grade student at East York Elementary, sorts through gifts he and his family purchased for area homeless children, Monday, December 23, 2019. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

Maximus Morales, a fourth grade student at East York Elementary School, wanted to help spread some holiday cheer this year.

With assistance from his mom, Nicole Barbera, her boyfriend Kevin Kropkowski and others, the Spring Garden Township 9-year-old helped raise nearly $1,000 to buy presents for less-fortunate children.

The Bell Family Shelter, which serves homeless families in York City, was the  beneficiary of that generosity.

"This Christmas my son has chosen to spend the money he would be getting on Christmas morning on gifts for a family in need," Barbera said in a Facebook post Saturday, Dec. 21.  

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Maximus said it was an easy decision.

But it turns out he will be spreading the group's wealth among about a dozen kids and a handful of adults at the shelter at 852 E. Market St., rather than just limiting the generosity to one family. 

"I know Christmas is not just about getting presents, it's about loving and helping people in need," Maximus said on Monday, Dec. 23.

"The (kids) at the homeless shelter don't really have much, and I wanted to give them something to make them smile. I wanted to help them be jolly and believe that Christmas really is magical," he said.

Maximus Morales, 9, a fourth grade student at East York Elementary, sorts through gifts he and his family purchased for area homeless children, Monday, December 23, 2019. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

Kropkowski said the fundraiser began recently when he offered Maximus $100 to buy gifts for himself for Christmas or $200 to purchase presents for others.

"He chose the latter option and got the ball rolling, so to speak,"  Kropkowski said. "He called a few family members and friends to see if they wanted to donate money to the cause, and his mom and I did, too.

"We also went to the local Target and Walmart and stores to see if anybody was interested in donating money or toys, and we got some stuff there."

Kropkowski said the group raised more than $700. He said another fundraiser created by Community Helping Hands, of Hanover, and operated by Jordan Smith, raised another $200. It included a $100 donation from Becker’s Appliance.

In addition, Kropkowski said the Target store in Springettsbury Township donated all the gift wrap for the presents.

The presents, approximately 40 according to Kropkowski, were purchased Sunday night, Dec. 22, and wrapping was completed Monday.

Maximus and the group planned to present the gifts to the children and adults at the shelter on Christmas Eve. 

Maximus Morales, 9, a fourth grade student at East York Elementary, sorts through gifts he and his family purchased for area homeless children, Monday, December 23, 2019. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

"We got the two youngest kids, ages 3 and 4, some gifts they had asked for, and then we spent about $80 each on the other 10," Kropkowski said. "We got them anywhere from tablets to toys to shoes to ChapStick.

"And we have $20 gift cards for the five adults that are there."

Joyce Bagwell, an administrative assistant with Bell Family Shelter, said the organization gets a lot of donations during the holiday season and is thankful for that.

She said stories such as Maximus's are special.

"It's all very heartwarming," Bagwell said.