By Melody Vallieu
TROY — There are lessons to be learned in giving and helping others.
Student council members — and other students — at Forest Elementary are learning those lessons this Thanksgiving season thanks to a little help from art teacher Gabbrielle Braun.
Braun, among other plans for the school year, organized a Thanksgiving food drive, which has collected more than 500 non-perishable items for Troy’s St. Patrick’s Soup Kitchen.
Braun, in her second year as student council adviser at Forest, said the ideas for this year’s student council projects came from a brainstorming session during their first meeting.
“The kids had so many fabulous ideas for this school year, but two things stuck out to me. They wanted to do things that were giving and helping others,” said Braun, in her fifth year of teaching kindergarten through fifth grade art at Forest and Kyle elementary schools. “They also wanted to have classroom contests — a little healthy competition. I put two-and-two together and realized that a food drive would accomplish the goals that we set forth for student council.”
Braun said often times people come together for Christmas giving, but not as much this time of year.
“I think for many people, Thanksgiving is a time to not only give thanks, but to give. Whether that means giving physical items as we are, or being generous with our hearts.”
Sixteen student council members are participating in the food drive — half in charge of promotion and half in charge of collecting and tallying the daily totals.
“Putting on the food drive makes me feel great because we are helping out families that cannot afford a great big Thanksgiving dinner and we are giving that to them,” student Kara Steinke said.
Braun said they began promoting the food drive a half a week prior, with the promotion team going on the announcements and talking up the food drive as well as on the school’s Facebook page. They requested items the soup kitchen uses — and runs out of — frequently. Students, she said, were motivated in that the class with the most donations gets to have a cookie eating and decoration party the day before Thanksgiving break.
Despite the fact that Forest Elementary is considered a school of poverty — with 70 percent of students on free and reduced meals — Braun said she is touched by the amount of children bringing items in for the drive.
“I have seen students come in with bags too heavy for them to carry full of cans, boxes, and bags to donate,” she said. “It means that no matter your situation, you can give and you can help others. It’s been amazing to watch. It really warms your heart and makes you realize how love connects us all.”
Students have told Braun they are happy and proud to participate in helping others.
“Doing the food drive makes me feel happy for the people who go to the food kitchen because they can’t always afford food for a big Thanksgiving meal,” said Zurrenity Hoover. “It makes me feel good that we can give them that.”
Dylan Fugate agrees.
“It makes me proud because you are making other people have hope that there is people out there who are willing to help them,” Fugate said.
Students will drop off the donations on Monday to St. Patrick’s Soup Kitchen. The student council members also will help to organize and put the items away.
“The food drive to me means that we are helping out people that need it,” said student council member Nicole Tucker. “It shows that we have respect for one another and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Braun — who said she will organize the drive again next year following this year’s success — said life lessons are often learned by such simple things as donating a canned good from home.
“I think that students are learning how important it is to help and serve others. I think to make the world a better place young kids need to learn that we need to be compassionate towards anyone that is different or in a different situation from us,” she said. “We also need to be willing to help anyone in need, the students are learning so much about generosity.”