Children learn to help others through collecting food, toys

Tuesday, December 2, 2003

Although they don't have large sums to donate or vast resources of wealth, area schoolchildren know that helping friends and neighbors is important, particularly during the holiday season.

Students at Chaffee Elementary School and at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School in Cape Girardeau collected canned food for the needy as a project that taught them about generosity.

Counselor Angel Klund coordinated the Chaffee project, which also included a collection for Operation Christmas Child, a program that gives shoebox-sized gift boxes to children around the world.

The project was part of the school's character education lessons. Each month, the students spend time talking about a good character quality, like honesty, generosity or caring.

Students really grasp the lessons when they can participate in a hands-on project, Klund said. Charts in the hallways kept track of the cans collected and each classroom collected toys for one shoebox.

At St. Vincent School, students lined their hallways with more than 2,800 cans that were donated to FISH.

The canned food drive is an annual project held the week before Thanksgiving. Each class has a specific type of food or canned good to bring and the donations are sorted by hallways.

The school always tries to collect as many items as the year. So this year's goal was 2,003 cans.

The class that brings in the most cans receives an out-of-uniform day.

Students in the junior high's Christian Service club sort the cans and help get them ready for the FISH volunteers.

The schoolchildren also collect pennies and change once each month for a special cause. Last month more than $400 was raised. Donations from Wednesday's collection, taken up during an all-school Mass, were given to the American Cancer Society and St. Jude Children's Hospital.

The canned food drive and penny collection are part of the school's lessons on generosity and charity, taught through the religion classes, Raines said.

Klund said the students were "really sweet and asked a lot of good questions" about who would get the shoeboxes when she introduced the project.

Josh Eifert, 6, brought some candy and a silver watch to add to his classroom's shoebox.

"It's for kids that have no toys. I wanted to bring them all my money," he said.

Brandon Parker, a sixth-grader, said it felt good to be helping people. Fourth-grader Kira Hall also said helping people taught a good lesson, especially for younger children.

"They can grow up to be a big help to Chaffee and poor people," she said.

ljohnston@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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