Attention Walmart shoppers: Don’t be alarmed by the 30 boys and girls you recently saw in the store pushing shopping carts full of toys, clothing and other items during a school day.
They were members of the Brownstown Central Middle School Tribal Council working together to select items for 65 less-fortunate children in the Brownstown school district.
It’s all a part of the annual Christmas Cheer program, a Brownstown community initiative that provides toys and food to local families at Christmastime.
All of the items purchased by the Tribal Council members and the canned goods collected by Brownstown Elementary School students soon will be delivered by the Christmas Cheer committee.
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“I was really excited because I love helping people, and it just makes me feel good,” sixth-grader Brianna Black said of the shopping trip. “It made my day, like I get to help someone and help them have a really good Christmas because I’m really fortunate to get all of the stuff I get for Christmas.”
Brianna shopped with fellow sixth-grader Morgan Branaman.
“I thought it was a really good idea because I love helping people. It’s fun, and it makes you feel good inside,” Morgan said. “We have church stuff that we do, and we raised canned goods in elementary school. It’s good to teach kids about that so they wouldn’t take stuff for granted.”
Seventh-graders Andrew Wheeles and Nick Robbins paired up to shop. This was Nick’s second year participating in the project.
“It felt nice to give back,” Nick said of last year. “I like giving back.”
Helping again this year, he said he got the same good feeling inside.
“It just felt nice that I have a lot and I’m getting stuff for somebody else that doesn’t have anything,” Nick said.
This was Andrew’s first time helping shop for items.
“It makes you feel good inside giving kids a Christmas,” he said.
Tribal Council advisers Alicia McCrary and Lee Ann Silence accompanied the students on their recent trip to the Seymour store. McCrary said they had more than $5,000 to spend on 65 children ages 5 months to 18 years.
They received more than $500 in donations from local businesses and community members, but the rest was collected through fundraisers at the school. Those fundraisers, however, required a little different approach this year.
“In the past, we’ve always sold candy, and that was always a big hit,” McCrary said. “But with the new healthy snack initiative that goes on at schools, we could only sell certain approved snacks.”
The cafeteria staff provided a list of approved items they could buy, and they were purchased in bulk and sold during the school day. That included wheat Rice Krispies bars, baked potato chips, string cheese and Orange Leaf frozen yogurt.
They also had one-day events where students paid $1 to participate. That included a hat day, an ugly Christmas sweater contest and using their cellphones during Tribe or homeroom.
Letters also were sent home with students so they could collect money from their families and local businesses.
Once all of the money was put together, the Tribal Council members headed to Walmart, where they paired up and received a note card with the number of kids they were shopping for, their ages and the amount to spend.
McCrary said it’s always neat to see what the students pick out.
“I think these kids put a lot of thought into what they are going to buy, and I like watching them try to discuss how much they can spend and get them more bang for their buck, basically,” she said.
“I think it really just hits home to them that they are helping those that maybe aren’t as fortunate as they are,” she said. “They really did well just leading the different days at school and also just being here and helping pick out for the kids.”
Helping with Christmas Cheer is a good opportunity for community service, McCrary said.
“The younger you can teach the kids to give back to the community, the better,” she said. “Hopefully, they will grow up and remember this. I have students all of the time and parents all of the time tell me, ‘Oh my gosh, when my kids were in middle school, that was their favorite thing to do.’ Maybe they can remember this and carry this with them to college and just keep being a giving member of the community.”
McCrary has been involved with the project for several years, and she said she continues to be impressed with the students’ efforts.
“I think sometimes, people can just be negative, and I can kind of get into that mode. Sometimes, we get overwhelmed with our day-to-day stuff,” she said.
“But then when we do something like this, it just really renews my faith in our kids just to see how they have such leadership and how they take so much ownership in this.
“It’s not just me doing the activities at the school. It’s them leading it, so I just love seeing them become little leaders.”