PARKERSBURG - Children throughout Wood County Schools are learning about community and giving this holiday season.
Schools throughout the district have been holding fundraising events, collecting canned goods or even gifts for families and children in need.
Karen Brunicardi, director of elementary schools for Wood County Schools, said often it is the schools with the highest need that see the most generosity from their communities.
Photo by Michael Erb
Special education teacher Jessica Hickman wraps gifts Tuesday to be given this week to families in need in the Jefferson Elementary Center community.
"I walked into one of our highest-poverty schools and they had a place to donate food for needy families. It was overflowing," she said. "A lot of these families (that are donating) are the ones that would need help. It's pretty amazing."
At Jefferson Elementary Center, the school teamed with local churches and community groups to purchase presents for dozens of area families.
"We have had more than 60 children in need of assistance at Christmas," said Principal Christie Wilson. "Every time we get more names, a church, business or a person shows up at our doorstep with money, gifts or food donations to help. Every year at Jefferson it is amazing that the more requests we get, the help arrives.
"It is a yearly Christmas miracle that warms the heart."
"We've had a very gracious group of people who aren't looking for anything for themselves. They just want their kids to have a great Christmas," said school nurse Rosemary Scott, who helped organize the gift-giving event. Scott said teachers worked throughout the week to purchase and wrapped gifts, and area community members stepped up to make sure the school had enough for everyone in need.
"We have a local church with a very small congregation that sacrifices throughout the year just to raise money to buy gifts for children," she said. "There were times when I thought we just couldn't help everyone we wanted to help, but then someone in the community, some person or group stepped forward."
Jefferson pre-kindergarten teacher Whitney Dobson spent the week talking to her class about the red kettle bell ringers seen throughout the area.
As a result of the lesson, Dobson's prekindergarten students gathered more than $25 in change to donate to the Salvation Army.
"We felt it was really valuable for the students to learn the importance of giving this time of year," she said. "They've done very well."
At Neale Elementary students gathered and donated food items to the Good Samaritan Food Pantry managed by Wayside United Methodist Church in Vienna, said Principal Michael Fling. The one-week food drive almost always turns into a two-week drive as students bring in more and more items, he said, and employees of the City of Vienna pick up and deliver the items to the food pantry.
At McKinley Elementary School, students gathered and donated supplies for the Parkersburg Humane Association. Principal Fred Shreve said the school put up Christmas trees on each floor of the school featuring ornaments with pictures of staff pets. Students placed donated items beneath the trees.
"The students bring in all sorts of supplies," he said. "They brought in canned food, dry food, toys, blankets, even newspapers if they didn't have anything else to donate."
At Worthington Elementary School, students gathered more than 1,300 canned items for the North Parkersburg Baptist Church's Friendship Kitchen.
"Last year we collected 890 (items) and set a goal this year of 1,000," said Principal Joe Oliverio. "Needless to say, we surpassed our goal."
At Parkersburg High School, students with the PHS Student Leadership gathered gifts for young and old alike.
"We fund-raised for the Marine Corps Toys for Tots," said Caitlyn Ohrn, a PHS senior and member of the leadership team. "They gave us a very large box and we filled it."
The students also gathered pairs of socks for the team's Socks for Seniors project. This week those socks were distributed by students to seniors at Eagle Pointe.
"It was really nice, but it was kind of sad," she said. "They were so happy just to get socks."
The team of about a dozen students also held a coat drive, gathering and cleaning coats which were distributed to some PHS students and area clothes closets, and created and donated a Christmas tree to an area family in need.
Ohrn said the holidays are an important time to remember "some people don't have the things other people just expect to get."