Empire Elementary’s holiday angel: Ensures no child at her school will miss a holiday meal | NevadaAppeal.com

Empire Elementary’s holiday angel: Ensures no child at her school will miss a holiday meal

Teri Vance
Jim Grant/Nevada AppealDenise DiMarzo presents a Thanksgiving dinner to a family from Empire Elementary School on Wednesday. DiMarzo organizes the annual event that delivers a dinner to families in need.

As the office manager at Empire Elementary School, Denise DiMarzo has an insight into the children there.

“I hear the stories from the children themselves,” she explained. “They tell me Santa didn’t come because we didn’t have any money, or they didn’t get to have Thanksgiving dinner.”

And DiMarzo isn’t one to stand by.

“I see the need every day, and I want to make a difference,” she said.

She came to the school three years ago and brought with her a program she started at Fremont Elementary School.

Working with teachers and counselors, she determines students who may be in need during the holiday season.

She then sends a note home asking parents if they would like assistance.

For those who respond affirmatively, she provides a full Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner along with small gifts for each child in the family for Christmas.

But she doesn’t work alone. She said about 75 groups and individuals helped her collect the needed fare this year for

85 families. Highway 50 Business Center donated a warehouse space.

“It’s so far-reaching, how many people have been supportive,” she said. “It’s amazing what our community really is made up of.”

Angila Golik organized the Gobble Gobble Giving drive for her students at Carson High School. They collected enough food to feed 20 families, and donated 400 food baskets to Friends in Service Helping.

The high school’s National Honor Society donated money for turkey and pies.

“Every time I ask these kids to help out, I get an overwhelming response,” Golik said. “At 15 and 16, they’re not sure what they can do to help. But if you ask for it, they will.”

Meals were handed out to families this week.

Manuel and Altagracia Calderon picked up a Thanksgiving feast for their grandson Jerry, 7, who lives with them.

“We didn’t have food to eat,” Manuel said.

Jerry was grateful for the generosity of the school staff.

“They’re nice to me,” he said.

DiMarzo was named the Carson City School District’s Classified Employee of the Year in May.

Earlier this year, she was nominated for the American Red Cross Unsung Hero award for her work at the school, and was also recognized by the Carson City Chamber of Commerce.

“I’m just trying to celebrate our kids and be there for them,” she said. “With this economy, everybody is struggling.”

Golik said DiMarzo’s spirit of giving is contagious.

“She’s addicting in what she does,” Golik said. “I’m struck with her bug.”

DiMarzo credits her persuasiveness to a career in sales before going to work in the schools. She said she used to call her students her little customers, but not now.

“They’re not customers anymore,” she said. “They’re all my angels.”