Brownstown elementary, middle school students help with program



Stepping off of the Brave Bus in pairs or trios, members of the Brownstown Central Middle School Tribal Council were handed a pencil and a calculator.

They already had a notecard with the number of kids they were shopping for, their ages and the amount to spend.

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Then the 32 students were ready to head into Walmart in Salem to fill carts with toys, clothing and other items for less-fortunate children in the Brownstown school district.

Meanwhile, Brownstown Elementary School was wrapping up collecting canned goods and other nonperishable food.

On Friday, all of the items were placed into boxes and delivered by the Christmas Cheer committee.

Now, Christmas will be a lot brighter for local families.

The middle school set a record by raising around $6,500 to put toward the project. Most of it was done in two weeks.

“For 400 kids to raise $6,500 in two weeks to go to kids that don’t have anything, that’s a spirit, for sure,” said Lee Ann Silence, one of the Tribal Council advisers.

“I think our kids really, genuinely want to help other people,” said Alicia McCrary, the other adviser. “They get excited about it. They talk about this all year. They just can’t wait. They don’t get anything out of it, they have to do a lot of extra work and they get really excited to go and buy stuff for other people, which is awesome.”

The elementary collected 3,746 items through its drive, which lasted three weeks. It’s one of the annual projects of the school’s student council.

“It’s just something we always do every single year,” said Jill Miller, student council adviser. “It’s that feeling that you get inside when you know that you have done something good for somebody else, so I try to tie that to the kids so they understand that.”

That goes along with the school’s “bucket-filling” effort of doing good deeds.

“We talk about this is one way to fill your own bucket and fill someone else’s, and I always add ‘and to fill somebody else’s stomach,’” Miller said. “We talk about how it’s staying right here in our community, and I say, ‘There are probably families in our school this is going to go to.’”

The schools have helped with the Christmas Cheer initiative for several years.

This year, the middle school conducted several fundraisers to help set the record.

A dance in October brought in $400, and the largest fundraiser, resulting in $3,000, was selling water, flavor packets and healthy snacks.

“The kids in Tribal Council, we ask they donate and bring in flavor packets or water, and we had a couple of parents bring in snacks, and that helps because that’s just pure profit,” Silence said.

Students also could pay $1 to use their Chromebooks or cellphones during 35-minute tribe time. Each grade had two of the device days.

“There are only 120 kids per grade, and it would bring in like $80 for one grade,” Silence said.

The school’s athletics department also helped by allowing eighth-grade Tribal Council members to work the concession stand at three home basketball games. Between concession and ticket sales at the games, the Tribal Council received $614 to put toward the shopping trip.

A new fundraiser was a weeklong penny war between the sixth, seventh and eighth grades. Pennies were positive points, while silver coins deducted five points, so one grade would try to put silver coins into the other grades’ jars.

McCrary said the lead changed every day, and the eighth-graders didn’t lead until the final day when someone brought in $200 worth of quarters and put them in the other two jars.

They wound up winning, and the total raised was nearly $600.

“They came in and they would dump their piggy banks,” McCrary said. “We would have huge jars, and I would have to take several trips into the bank every day because I couldn’t lift it all.”

Students also collected money from their family members and the community.

“We had some nice donations from the community,” Silence said. “We had a $500 check and a $200 check.”

The Tribal Council was able to buy gifts for nearly 65 children ages 1 to 18. That was 20 more kids than last year.

“If we help a student, then (gifts go) to their siblings, as well,” McCrary said.

Both advisers said the shopping day is their favorite part.

“To see them really try to budget and get the best deals because they want to be able to get their kids the most that they can, I just really like to see how excited they get,” McCrary said.

“When we tell these kids that for a lot of these kids, this is the only Christmas they get, I think they honestly feel there is an accountability to them to make a kid’s Christmas nice,” Silence said. “I think that they feel like they have ownership in knowing that they are helping to make somebody have a good Christmas.”

Eighth-grader Logan Burnside and sixth-grader Lexi Wheeles shopped together.

Logan also did the shopping trip as a sixth-grader, while it was Lexi’s first year participating.

“I just remember having fun doing it. It made me feel better about myself,” Logan said. “I like helping people. If they don’t have the money to buy stuff, we can help buy it.”

Sixth-graders Rylee Barnard and Kemora Chastain also had fun shopping.

“I like shopping for other people and giving to others,” Kemora said. “I think it’s awesome our school does this. I think it helps to have people buy for others that are in need for Christmas like we do.”

Both girls said they like helping make a difference for others.

“It feels good to me because I’m helping people have a better Christmas and have more fun,” Rylee said.

“Everybody should have a fun Christmas,” Kemora said.

After shopping, the students were rewarded with lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Salem.

With the elementary’s food drive, Miller said the students typically bring in between 3,000 and 4,500 items. In recent years, it has started the week after Thanksgiving.

The class bringing in the most is rewarded with popcorn and a movie after Christmas.

Fourth-graders Kolton Helton and Trevor Branaman both said they brought food from their homes to donate, while classmate Jaxson Johnson said he also bought food at a grocery store.

They all liked seeing the stacks of food grow every day.

“I just like helping people that don’t have much food,” Kolton said. “It makes me feel good about it.”

Trevor said the school made it fun by allowing students to wear pajamas one day and dress like twins another day if they donated food.

“It’s fun counting (the items) and giving food to people,” he said.

Jaxson said it’s important for the school to do the food drive each year.

“Because if you were one of those families, you would just think they did all of this for you and you get a lot of food,” he said.

Fourth-grader Micah Sheffer also said he was happy that everyone participated. Whether they brought in one item or several, he said it made a difference.

“It’s really fun because you get to help people that are in need,” he said. “It’s pretty important to help people have food at Christmastime. It lets them have a good time with family.”

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