GREENFIELD — The rows of desk connected to create a make-shift assembly line, with hundreds of donated items — gloves, socks, toothpaste, toothbrushes — passing among little hands.
Two fifth-grade classes from Brandywine Elementary School have spent the past several months collecting donations for those in need in Hancock County. As part of a lesson on giving back, the students packaged the goods in more than 60 bright orange care bags Thursday morning. In just a few days time, those bags will be distributed to people who might have trouble making ends meet around the holidays.
“We’re getting to help people, and I think that’s what the holidays are all about,” fifth-grader Bailey Bonham said.
Christmas is not about always getting presents, she added.
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Teachers April Manning and Darcy Rund said they decided their students are now old enough to start thinking of others and giving back to their community, and they wanted to instill those values in the children as part of their education. The teachers worked with the students to help them collect the goods over the past several months.
The bagged items will be given out during a special Christmas Eve celebration jointly hosted by the Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen and God’s Open Arms ministry.
The event at the Hancock County Fairgrounds provides a hearty meal to those in need, as well as free gifts and items for parents to take home to their families.
This year, the Brandywine students are taking pride in knowing they’ll be part of making the holidays bright for the less fortunate.
Manning sees the less as a chance to teach children to look outward at the needs in their own community.
“This can be a tough age for kids, where they can kind of start being a little more ‘me, me, me, me, me,’ so we wanted to teach them life is sometimes about others,” Manning said.
In the past, teachers have used a holiday calendar to celebrate the season with students.
The calendar is normally filled with 12 different days of small gifts for the children, but this year, teachers decided to mark the dates with ideas to help the students give to others.
Parents, friends, family and community businesses donated the goods for this year’s project.
As the students prepared to package the items, fifth-grader Andrew Bowman took a moment to think about those who would receive them.
“It’s good to help people who are not as fortunate as us,” he said.
Through the lessons, teachers talked with the students about the hardships many local families face, and how those difficulties can make it hard to celebrate the holidays.
In addition to collecting and packing up goods, the students also wrote encouraging notes to include with each package.
“Our kids have so much given to them, and having them work on something like this makes them feel good about who they are,” Rund said.
For many of the students, Thursday’s event was their first chance to be involved in a philanthropic effort.
Fifth-grader Kate Standfield said she felt good knowing she was a part of something so big, that would reach far beyond the walls of her classroom.
The project also incorporated a history lesson about labor and how assembly lines work, teachers said. But the biggest takeaway, of course, was about the joy of giving back.