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Students collect food, presents for classmates

With the help of classmates, staff members and parents, those students in need at Ironton Elementary School will be getting Christmas presents and food this year.

The school’s Parent Teacher Committee organized the giving to 121 of the school’s students, the names of whom were drawn from an angel tree.

The committee also organized a food drive, which brought in more than 3,500 food and toiletry items.

“We just don’t want to think about people going to bed without food,” Kim Brown, principal of the school, said. “There’s no reason we can’t help each other.”

In addition to donations from the school, Grandma’s Gifts also donated vouchers for 150 turkeys.

“It’s a lot of people coming together to try to help,” Brown said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Brown decided to organize the angel tree after she got several calls asking for assistance from parents last year, when she worked with fourth, fifth and sixth graders.

At the time, Brown connected the parents with church groups and other organizations that could help.

This year, the committee took about a month to organize both the angel tree and the food drive.

Lorrie Hunt, vice president of the committee, spent Monday morning delivering gifts to the children’s homes. The best part, she said, was seeing how thankful the families were.

“For us that’s extremely gratifying to see their gratitude,” Hunt said.

The committee set the tree up last week in the hopes that all the names would be accounted for by Friday.

To their surprise, only three names were left Friday afternoon. Brown and her husband bought presents for those names.

Hunt said she is impressed at everyone’s willingness to give, even in the midst of a bad economy.

“I think it’s cool that we have an economic challenge but the spirit of giving is very much alive,” Hunt said.

When the children learn early to be generous, it is a trait that stays with them, Peanut Dodson, president of the parent teacher committee said.

“Anything they learn they’ll carry it on with them,” Dodson said.

“(Giving) is what Christmas is all about.”

The school turned the food and toiletry drive into a contest in which the winning class won a pizza party.

That honor went to Julie Ball’s second grade students, who brought in 536 items.

“We just talked about it in class,” Ball said. “They got really excited about it.”

Ball set the class’s goal at 300, which it quickly surpassed.

The school plans to keep the food pantry a permanent feature, so families will have access to food all year.

“I’m very proud of them,” Brown said, adding that the school is still receiving calls from people who want to help. “I’m proud of the parents, students and staff.

“It just warms your heart.”