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Ironton students help orphans

IRONTON — The lessons learned in the classroom sometimes can be more than history, math and science.

For fourth and fifth-graders at Ironton Elementary School, one lesson that hit home was the current hunger crisis plaguing much of eastern Africa, namely Ethiopia.

It became a lesson so personal that students dedicated the month of April towards raising money and food for the improvised nation.

For the past 30 days, students, along with teachers and faculty, collected non-perishable food items and raised money in an effort to help more than 20 orphans in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

Moderated by teachers Cheryl Cleary and Cindy Ware, the fundraising effort, named People to People showed students that by coming together and learning about a cause, can have a significant positive effect on responsibility.

The orphans that Ironton Elementary dedicated to support became bereaved as their parents died of terminal diseases such as AIDS-related illnesses.

“Their hearts are in the right place,” Cleary said when discussing the effort and ownership students took in raising the funds and food needed to meet the lofty goals set at the beginning of the month.

Cleary said the school set a pair of challenges for students.

First was a fundraising effort to see if $500 could be raised collectively by the end of the month.

Second was a student versus teacher challenge to see who could collect the most food.

With daily announcements and even bonus questions on tests dealing with the current famine crisis in the landlocked-African country, students not only matched the monetary goal just eight days into the drive, but quadrupled it to nearly $2,000.

As for the food drive, the final tally could have gone either way, but there was no doubt that both student and teachers went all out in gathering as much as possible.

Food, from canned fruit to tuna to cookies, covered nearly half of the school’s entrance foyer late last week.

For fifth-grader Logan Gleichauf, 11, just reading about the current situation was enough for him

“We read about the poor conditions in Ethiopia and other countries and I felt it was my job to help,” Gleichauf said.

Once finalized, the food will be shipped to local pantries while the money will be personally taken by Principal Kim Brown and her husband Steve to Addis Ababa.

The Browns have made previous trips to the African city and plan on using the money to purchase livestock that allow the orphans to become more self-sufficient.

Cleary said the success of the inaugural event would likely turn it into an annual effort.

Addis Ababa is the capital and largest city in Ethiopia with a population of more than 2.7 million. Many poor Ethiopians from the rural areas come to Addis Ababa as beggars and fill some of the streets.

Asked about what the drive meant to him, fourth-grader Chase Rowe, 10, didn’t hold back his feelings.

“We are very lucky to have what we have. Very, very lucky.”