HANCOCK COUNTY — One-by-one, the New Palestine High School students unloaded box after box of donations and supplies at the Hancock Hope House. The work was part of a school service project where they learned about doing good for others.
For the last few weeks leading up to the Christmas, the students have been competing against each other via grade level to earn points toward capturing the NPHS Class Cup, an annual competition between the seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshman.
This year, Social Studies teacher Mitchel Burk teamed up with Service Learning teacher Jeremy Large, and the two educators came up with an idea to work through Large’s Service Learning class to get as many donations as possible as well as help the grade level classes earn points toward the Class Cup.
Senior Megan Ramsey said the project has really allowed her to get into the Christmas spirit.
“This year, I’m more interested in giving gifts than receiving them,” she said. “We were able to help families at the Hope House by creating an Amazon wishlist of things they needed.”
The students then made a “giving tree” in the school office where students could select a requested item and bring it in or go to the Amazon wish list to purchase it.
“The items on the Christmas wishlist weren’t extravagant things that you might think of for a Christmas list,” Ramsey said. “It was everyday basic needs, like laundry detergent. I hope these families are blessed in some small way. I can’t explain just how awesome the feeling of giving is. I’m blessed to have been able to help.”
The Service Learning class students also spread the word, encouraging all students to take part and donate needed supplies.
“All my service learning students have played a role in the project,” Large said. “We divided up tasks and had groups in charge of setting up trees, marketing, making posters, Amazon wishlists, making ornaments with wishlist items, QR codes, taking inventory, sorting, calculating points, etc. … It’s been fun to see it all come together.”
Students collected over 600 donations for the Hancock Hope House, dropping off things like new pillows, blankets, cleaning supplies, deodorant, paper towels and more late last week. Plus, the senior students in the Service Learning class met up with Large at Walmart after dropping off the goods to purchase presents for a Hancock Hope House family in need this Christmas season.
“The kids collected all of this in just a couple of weeks,” Burk said. “I had no idea they would be able to do all of this, but we’re really happy with the results.”
Hancock Hope House executive assistant Cindy Miller noted Burk’s mother, Brenda Burk, has donated to the cause for years,and she’s glad to see her son and the students from NPHS carrying on the giving tradition during the holidays.
“We are so grateful to New Palestine High School,” Miller said. “We were running out of a lot of things, and when I saw all the items the kids brought in, I was like, ‘yes’ this helps so, so much.”
Senior Luke Tucher said he loves being able to know the work they’re doing is making others’ lives a little bit easier, especially during the holidays.
“Providing my school the opportunity to donate to an important cause and seeing the results that it has produced has made me so happy, and I hope New Pal continues this tradition in the future,” Tucher said.
He noted the New Pal Giving Trees project has made the biggest impact out of all of the charities and volunteering projects he’s ever been a part of, and it provided the realization that the students should live their lives to the fullest, helping others.
“For me, doing that entails making others’ lives better,” Tucher said. “With this project’s success, I hope that everyone notices the effect that giving has on the community, and that the people of New Pal continue to have a positive impact on others.”
Senior Audrey O’Dell agreed and said there is nothing like helping others during the holidays.
“I’m a busy person, but I wanted to help in some way, so getting a chance to help others while in school has been great,” she said. “It feels good to give back.”
Burk called the students, “go-getters,” crediting them with all the hard work. Next year he hopes to expand the project and get the other Southern Hancock schools involved noting that would be a great way to get more supplies for those in need.
As for which grade level won the most points going toward the NPHS Class Cup, which will be rewarded at the end of the year, the juniors pulled out a slim win over the seniors with a big delivery on the day the students dropped off the donations.