By Pat Pratt
A new organization is helping make the holidays a little brighter for students at the Madison County ROE 41 Center for Educational Opportunities.
Leslie Klaus, of Maryville and formerly of Troy, is the food service manager at COE and is the founder of Kyle’s Tree. The organization is named after her mother, Kyle Converse, who died two years ago and whose favorite holiday was Christmas.
“I wanted to do something special for these kids and I didn’t know how to start,” Klaus said. “So I wanted to do something to honor my mom, as I was kind of having emotional struggles and I wanted to help these kids. So I put them together and formed Kyle’s Tree.”
Klaus put together a wish list of items the students could use and circulated it to get the word out. This year through the Kyles Tree and the contributions of donors, 60 gift boxes were provided to students at the school. The boxes contained personal hygiene items, holiday treats and other items to brighten the season.
“I was mind-blown, I had no idea it was going to do that,” Klaus said. “I wasn’t expecting it to explode. We were able to package and wrap gifts for 60 kids, everything from winter wear, to hygiene stuff, journals and pens. It turned out fabulous.”
Klaus said the new program would not have been possible without the help of many in the community who donated, including Dunkin’ Donuts of Troy, which adopted the school for the holidays. Other businesses were very generous as well, such as Pete’s Market, who donated fresh fruit to the students, and many other churches and individuals.
“This would not have become a reality if not for this wonderful community and all of its generosity,” Klaus said.
The program will continue again next year following its success this holiday season, Klaus said. She may change it up to include a holiday meal in 2023, if possible.
Through all of her efforts this year and moving forward, Klaus said she keeps at the forefront the generous spirit of her mother.
“If she was able, she would have been standing right by my side helping me do those boxes,” Klaus said.