The Arc makes students’ Christmas brighter

A Cortland Elementary School class partnered with The Arc of Jackson County to bring joy to local special needs children.

Students in Holly Birdsong’s fourth grade class brought in items to fill 21 Christmas stockings with 11 items each.

Each year, Birdsong has her students do a community service project at Christmastime.

Melanie O’Neal, planning coordinator for The Arc of Jackson County, said Birdsong reached out to her asking if there’s something her class could do for the nonprofit organization.

It just so happened that The Arc has a new program called Achieving Right Choices, where board member Deb Schwartz and her son, Dylan Bridges, a self-advocate board member, visit schools to present the program.

“It’s a very cute, fun-filled activity where Deb reads a storybook about feelings and emotions, so kind of a spinoff from I’m Thumbody Special for Mental Health America, and Dylan actually acts out the emotions as Deb is describing them,” O’Neal said. “He is a rock star.”

The stockings and some sensory toys were delivered Wednesday by Schwartz and Bridges to special needs classrooms in Jackson County. That also included some Lego sets that were donated by one of O’Neal’s former co-workers.

“A big shoutout to The Arc and Cortland’s fourth grade class that made it happen,” Schwartz posted on Facebook on Wednesday.

Schwartz is taking over as president of The Arc board in January.

“They are all about giving and being the voice advocacy work here in Jackson County, so we are so thankful to have them,” O’Neal said of Schwartz and Bridges.