In the past, my students have always received gifts from a local charity or community organization. This has always been arranged by my instructional assistants, older African American women with strong roots in our community. They took care of it and I was left to the joy and toil of teaching straight through till winter break.
This year, our class was moved to a new school, and I also received a new instructional assistant. She is awesome, extremely reliable, and practical. She also has the added bonus of being a former Head Start parent, which means she understands why we do what we do. I decided this year, for the first time, I would ask my friends on facebook to help out my students. This is what I wrote:
Dear Friends. I am trying to find a local company or organization to adopt my 3 year old class this holiday season. This particular class has about 7 out of my 16 children who could use some clothes and books. I am not requesting toys etc. Please let me know if you are interested in helping. Thanks. John
One of my students, Jana (pseudonym), was recently homeless for several weeks. Another little girl, Shante (pseudonym), has three older siblings and does not have many clothes that aren’t handed down and impeccably clean. Her mother works at a local hotel in maid service. These kids and their families are living in poverty, but they they are struggling to get ahead. That means not much under the tree.
Thanks to some close friends here in the Collaboratory, including Marsha Ratzel, Allison Sampish, Lori Nazareno, Carrie Kamm, and Jennifer Barnett, a neighbor who lives across the street from our school who attends First Baptist Church, a group of nurses at a Covenant Woods retirement community, and close friends, my students had Christmas this year. Their generosity amazed me and I have a little brighter view of humanity thanks to them. Here are just a few of the stories that made me smile:
- My friend Emily and her husband bought a book for every student in my class.
- My next door neighbor was still delivering gifts Sunday night.
- My contact from the church, Melissa, gave us so many clothes and books we could share them with the other Head Start class in our school. Melissa also told me a story that made me tear up. She explained that First Baptist provides a meal once a week to homeless men near our school. At the end of the meal line there is a tip jar where men put as much as they care to. Every few months the men decide where to donate they money collect. This time every man in the room stood up to donate the $109 dollars they had collected to our students.
To express my sincere gratitude and appreciation, I decided I would share a story that would help Melissa, CTQ, and my close friends know how much these gifts were appreciated. Recently, I wrote about Marcus (pseudonym) and his mind opening experience at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Marcus has continued to develop language by leaps and bounds.
Marcus really needed a pair of winter gloves. One day he came to school with his big brother’s batter’s glove because he really wanted to wear gloves like his classmates. Marcus’ mother brought him to school Wednesday and so I gave her his bag of clothes and books. She was sincerely appreciative. She works the night shift at a convenience store and doesn’t have much time or energy for shopping. The next day, Marcus came to school with his new gloves on. He refused to take them off as we started circle time. When we got in line to go outside, he put them in his cubby because he didn’t want to get them dirty. He reeeeally loved those gloves.
This is how much you are appreciated. Thank you, Head Start Angels.
image by: John M. Holland