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KES Philanthropy Project- Holiday Sharing

  • “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” – Desmond Tutu

I’m always trying to help connect the dots for my little ones when it comes to the big ideas of charitable acts. I jump at the slightest thought my five year old has about giving back. From baking muffins for the fire department or cleaning up trash on the sidewalk in town, or to just holding the door for strangers. It gets challenging coming up with ways to resonate with elementary school children whose whole world is generally five feet in front of their nose and nothing more. This idea that there is more to care about then just yourself and that we are all part of greater communities is tough to understand when you are just three and a half feet tall. The trick is to engage, motivate and give them ownership, which seems to be the trifecta of getting anyone actively involved in anything really. But there is a structure provided by the Parent Teacher Organization at KES that provides the children that opportunity to be selfless, learn how to give and become active members of their community.

The Holiday Sharing drives at KES for Thanksgiving and the December holidays provided the students a chance to take action and donate either nonperishable food items for The Northern Westchester Community Center in November and pajamas, family games and books for our own KES community in December. As the boxes outside their classroom filled up, the students were reminded of the need in the community and the fun of participating and helping those bins overflow. But the best part is, the giving didn’t stop there.

Once the bins of food were filled for the Thanksgiving food drive, the students were invited to walk the school halls after hours and collect the bins for delivery, which, for my kindergartener, was a thrilling act of independence. Once the food bins were loaded into our cars, the students caravanned down the hill to the Community Center where they were invited inside to weigh in their donations and to stock the shelves.

Have you ever had that moment with your young child where you let them use the Magic Eraser or a spray bottle of Windex or a handheld vacuum for the first time and they spend the next 90 minutes excitedly cleaning every spot in your home while you watch in shock? It’s like they go crazy for their new responsibility and step up in the food chain because they were allowed to play the part of an adult! That’s what it was like watching the KES students at the Community Center. They were full of excited energy at the chance to do some heavy lifting and shelf organization. But really, they felt empowered to help and participate in an action bigger then themselves. This is the moment where their action becomes ownership over their learning and hopefully they feel that they are capable of making a difference. And maybe, just maybe, a few kids left feeling a responsibility, or how great it will feel, to give again.

               

 

November 17, 2016 – After school food delivery to the Northern Westchester Community Center.

And much like the action of delivering and stocking the food at The Northern Westchester Community Center, the students were given the chance to wrap the games and books collected during the December holiday giving drive. Empowering the children to wrap the donated holiday gifts for those in need in their own community adds that extra layer active giving. Delivering a donated item is helpful and gives the students a sense of accomplishment, but I was very impressed with how many students came to school on a weekday evening to take that extra step to wrap, some learning the art of gift wrapping for the first time, and bag the gifts for those in need. The action seems so simple and didn’t take the group more then an hour to complete yet it’s powerful when young people chose caring for their community over their daily routine. It left such a positive impression on me just witnessing the kids, so enthusiastic to help, and very happy to be part of the KES community.

The holiday Gift Drive sponsored by the PTO for nearly 15 years. Pajamas and socks were collected by the kindergarten classes for The Northern Westchester Community Center, and first through fifth grades collected books and family games for the families in our own KES community.

December 19, 2016 – Holiday Sharing Wrap Night in the KES cafeteria

Chaired by Michelle Bieber & Beth Nevins

-Samantha Holcman