Fifth graders at Spring Glen Elementary School in Hamden are using their community service project this month to help make the holidays brighter for other children.
“We all came together and made it happen,” said Brandon Ridley. He and six fellow fifth graders rallied in just two weeks to collect toys and pajamas as part of their December service project.
Each month, a different small group of kids is tasked with giving back. For December, this group chose donations for Hamden’s Keefe Center and the Connecticut Alliance of Foster and Adoptive Families.
“The people in foster care don’t have parents so they should be able to get toys just as well as us,” said William Ruocco, a fifth grade student on the project.
“It teaches us to help other people, to look for the good in people, and try to put yourself in their shoes and help them a little bit,” said Bandon.
Service is embedded in the kids’ learning at Spring Glen. Shelby Irwin is a fifth grade teacher, and helps guide the groups each month.
“Our first one we did marker recycling, we had another group who did a letter-writing campaign and a candy driver for veterans,” said Irwin, who adds she can see the impact it has on the students.
“It’s been pretty amazing,” said Irwin. “I feel like the kids are really voicing that they feel empowered, that they can make a change in their community, and that ‘it feels good to do good’ is what I keep hearing from kids.”
It’s also making a difference in the Hamden community. Y’Isiah Lopes was there to collect the toys for the Keefe Center, and $300 the children were able to raise as well.
“I’d be happy if it was $50,” said Lopes. “We have 500 families that’s currently signed up looking to receive toys for their children.”
The Keefe Center helps Hamden residents with everything from food to financial planning. And this Christmas, they’ll be able to put more presents under the tree, thanks to seven fifth graders.
“It’s a blessing and I think it’s important that Spring Glen Elementary is teaching kids at this age how to give and donate because it’s going to go a long way,” said Lopes.
The toys and clothing were divided between the Keefe Center and the Connecticut Alliance of Foster and Adoptive Families. Irwin will deliver the toys and an additional $300 to that group on Saturday.