Fourth-graders at Seymour-Redding Elementary School recently brought in items they had collected for children less fortunate than themselves and learned some valuable life lessons in the process.
On Wednesday, Tonja Couch, executive director of Jackson County United Way, visited the school to explain to the students that in every community, people have three things they can give to others: Time, talent and treasure.
“People might not have all three things to give at the same time,” Couch said. “They might not have all three things to give ever, maybe just one or two, but that’s OK.”
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Couch asked the students for some examples of giving time to others. Some of the answers included having patience, helping people and listening.
“The next part of what you can give your community is something that’s inside of you and part of who you are,” Couch said. “It is your talent, which is something you are really good at.”
One student said her talent was playing a violin, another said hers was playing a recorder and another said she can jump on a pogo stick while playing a guitar.
Finally, Couch talked to the students about the gift of treasure, which is money. She said some people have a lot and some have just a little.
“Communities are there to help one another, and everybody should get what they need,” Couch said. “When people give their time, talent and treasure, it’s an opportunity to help others and to feel good about it.”
Couch said some people don’t have a house or a safe, warm place to go or might have to sleep in their car, so a local pastor recently started asking the community what could be done about the problem.
“So there have been some churches opening their doors for people to stay a week at a time if they don’t have a place to stay,” Couch told the students. “The bags that you’re packing today are for the children that will be staying at those places so they’ll have some fun things and items they need.”
That pastor, the Rev. Dr. Sondra Gentry of Bethel Community Church, visited the school Wednesday to collect the bags and let the children know how much she appreciated what they were doing.
“I am so impressed that you are doing this because I see people who are really cold,” Gentry told the students. “The first day we opened, a man came in and his feet were cold and wet because he had holes in his shoes and he was very sick.”
Gentry said it took several days to get him warmed up, and he was so glad to be provided with new shoes and socks to keep his feet warm and a new hat because he was so cold.
“Some of the bags the students packed today will go to the Cold Night Out shelter, and others will go to Double Down Outreach,” Gentry said. “Double Down goes out in the neighborhood where folks are camping out and the hotel there, and kids that come to those shelters will receive a bag.”
Couch said close to 80 bags will be collected from Seymour-Redding Elementary, and fourth-grade students in Jennifer Regruth’s class at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School also did the same project, so overall, around 125 students participated.
Fourth-grade teachers Riley Stuckwisch, Rhi Castetter and Dee Beavers had asked their students to collect socks, hats, gloves, snacks, notebooks and art supplies to bring to school with them so they could pack goodie bags for local homeless children.
“We got involved with this project this year because Rhi is good friends with Tonja, and we also participated in a United Way project last year,” Stuckwisch said. “We wanted to participate again this year and help the community.”
Castetter said the kids did a great job and really did all of the work, bringing in a lot of donated items that will go to children who need it.
Fourth-grader Jaelynn Chatman summed it up when she said, “Doing this today makes me happy to able to help whoever I can.”
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Having finished their first five days in the new program Cold Night Out, the Rev. Dr. Sondra Gentry said 13 people, including a dozen males, had been served.
Three people were refused service due to violent history, verbal abuse at intake or failure to follow the rules.
Two people had found jobs, one was already working and one person was brought to salvation.
Cold Night Out received another grant from Walmart in the amount of $500, which will help resolve the issue of shower and day sites. With this grant, only $779 is needed to meet budget expenses.
Columbus currently is initiating plans to replicate Cold Night Out.
There was no church that volunteered to host at the Seymour Community Center for this week, so Bethel Community Church will be doing so.
To donate to Cold Night Out, make checks payable to Bethel Community Church, 350 Calvin Blvd., Seymour, with a notation of Cold Night Out.