BCMS Tribal Council sets records in shopping for kids

It’s better when everyone works together.

In just eight days, the Brownstown Central Middle School Tribal Council received support from fellow students, Brownstown Central Community School Corp. staff and the community in raising more than $7,000 to purchase 1,334 toys for 228 children.

In the end, advisers Alicia McCrary and Kelly Cunningham and the Tribal Council members could call it a record year.

Previously, the most money raised was $6,500 in 2017, and the number of children receiving toys hadn’t gone too much past 100.

“I don’t know the families ever. I just know their ages, and so I don’t know where the extra need came from, but I love that we’re able to fill it,” McCrary said during Thursday morning’s shopping trip at Walmart Supercenter in Salem.

Some “very, very generous” donations came in Thursday morning to help set the record, she said.

“Just random parents dropping off very large checks in the office, and businesses have been super helpful,” McCrary said. “Everybody just really has taken this under their wing and donated definitely from their heart this year. Our community has always taken care of each other, and that’s something that’s invaluable to me as somebody who lives in this community.”

The fundraiser is part of the annual Christmas Cheer program, a Brownstown community initiative that provides toys and food to local families at Christmastime.

The food will come from a nonperishable food drive at Brownstown Elementary School that started Nov. 29 and ends Wednesday. The school’s goal is to collect 4,000 items. The winning grade level will receive a party after winter break.

The Christmas Cheer committee will distribute the toys and food to families.

BCMS raised more than $1,000 from corporation staff members making a donation to wear jeans at school one day, while money also came from purchases made at a snack shack and students making a donation to wear a hat to school one day and pajamas another day.

Once all of the money was collected, McCrary and Cunningham accompanied the 25 Tribal Council members on a ride on the Brave Bus to Salem to shop.

In pairs or trios, the kids shopped for various ages of children, ranging from months old to 17 years old. They considered the recipient’s age and gender in determining which items to place in their cart while tracking the amount they are spending to stay within budget.

Seventh-graders Wyatt Mann and Sydney Hall shopped for 15 15-year-old girls. They took a stack of plastic baskets off of a shelf and filled each with a fleece throw blanket, face wipes, body spray and other health and beauty products.

“I feel like it was really fun to give to other people. I hope they feel good and that they know that they get something. It might be the only thing that people get over the holidays, and it just really makes that much of a difference,” Hall said.

“It was good to shop for somebody else,” Mann said. “It was kind of hard because we were running around trying to find stuff, trying to keep in our budget. I hope it makes them feel good that they have something this holiday season. It makes us feel good that we’re helping, and it helps to give back.”

Eighth-graders Saylor Forston and Daisey Goins shopped for kids ages 9 months to 2 years.

“I have a lot of siblings with many different age groups,” Forston said. “I have two older, and I’m going to have three younger — I have one on the way — so it’s like I know what everybody likes.”

Goins said she also has several siblings, so she knew what to buy during the shopping trip.

“I’m very caring, I’m very good with younger kids and I love helping out,” she said.

Both girls said it was their first time shopping for Christmas Cheer, and they had a positive experience.

“It helps out people in need, and it gives people experience how to buy for other people,” Goins said.

“There are a lot of things I like, but the main thing is knowing that it’s Christmas and knowing that these kids probably won’t get a lot of Christmas, so we’re trying to give them that,” Forston said.

McCrary said she liked seeing the kids shop again this year after they didn’t get to last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Tribal Council still did fundraising for the program in 2020, but McCrary, Cunningham and Michael Leitzman, the school’s dean of students and athletic director, did the shopping.

“Getting back to this, that’s much more rewarding,” McCrary said. “That’s what I like to see because the kids can see what their fundraising efforts actually went to and to see them try to decide ‘Would they like this better or would they like that?’ and really put the thought into the gift-giving. In reality, that’s what it’s all about is caring for others, and it’s just really rewarding to see how much our kids care.”

McCrary hopes this project spurs the students to find ways to give back in the future.

“It instills in them that need and want to give back,” she said. “I feel like kids sometimes get a bad rap. It’s like we only see the negative of what kids do, but I just think kids are pretty awesome in what they can do.”

The Tribal Council members were elected by their peers to serve, and McCrary said every year, the peers make very good choices.

”They like to lead, and they like to be responsible,” she said. “It’s honestly student-led from start to finish, and that’s what’s my favorite part about it.”

How to help

To contribute to the nonperishable food drive at Brownstown Elementary School, send items with a student or drop items off at the school, 612 S. Base Road, Brownstown.

The drive ends Wednesday. The goal is to collect 4,000 food items. The winning grade level will receive a party after winter break.