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      Helias students create a Merry Christmas for women, kids in need

      The holidays are a time of giving, but that does not just go for the grown-ups in mid-Missouri.

      When I visited Helias High School last week, a group of students were busily wrapping Christmas gifts.

      But the presents were not for their friends or family, they are for kids currently living with their mothers at Jefferson City's Rape and Abuse Crisis Service center, known as RACS.

      "Christmas is about kids. And imagining these kids that can't control their home environments that are now pulled out and they're in these shelters," says Helias Spanish teacher Kris Arthur.

      "I hate the idea that they may not experience the magic of Christmas."

      When Arthur asked her students if they wanted to help, students did not hesitate.

      She encouraged them to raise $1,000 to buy Christmas gifts for two women at RACS, as well as their children.

      She enticed them by promising the class that raised the most money a pizza lunch or home-cooked breakfast.

      That apparently did the trick.

      Kids ravaged their piggy banks and gathered spare change.

      In just five days students collected more than four times as much as their goal, nearly $4,500. That's almost $40 per student.

      "Our class didn't actually win, but it was well-worth it and it was very fun," says Helias student Brian Oxenhandler.

      "And you feel like you're doing something really good, too. And it was that easy to just have money in your pocket and put it in a collection."

      Now, in addition to helping those two families, the students have money to do much more.

      They have already donated over $1,000 to the shelter.

      The students also bought a Nintendo Wii for the kids at RACS and plan to refurbish the family room at the shelter.

      Officials at RACS say they hope working with the shelter helps the students in their own lives as well.

      "We want to reach out to the younger generation of course, because we feel that's the most important way to break this cycle of violence," says RACS Executive Director Jim Clardy.

      2009 was the busiest year ever at the shelter. They house about 20 people every night and have room for 36 women and children.

      Follow the link below to the RACS website for more information and how you can help.