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TMCNet:  Eaton students work to give seniors Christmas gifts

[December 17, 2012]

Eaton students work to give seniors Christmas gifts

EATON, Dec 16, 2012 (Greeley Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- For four years, Nina Lewis has been at the heart of the giving tree at Benjamin Eaton Elementary School.

She has overseen the tree that helps put some sunshine in the lives of families in Eaton that might not otherwise get a Christmas. Lewis works with the school district to identify students who are living in poverty, gift tags go up on trees across the community identifying what those students would like for Christmas. Residents pick a tag, buy the gift, wrap it and return it to the school to be distributed.


But for those four years, something has been missing, Lewis said.

"There are more than just children in this community that need our attention at the holidays," she said. "This piece has been in my heart for four years. Our seniors get left out. And with heat expenses going up, we need to do something to help them out, too." Lewis rallied the troops and this year, 64 senior citizens living at Benjamin Square Apartments will get blankets to help keep them warm this summer.

The special place the gifts come from should warm their hearts as well.

Lewis, who is the KidLead coordinator at the school, got the 10- to 13-year-olds in the program involved like never before.

KidLead is a leadership development program that focuses on 16 different leadership qualities, such as commitment, responsibility, confidence and honor in four eight-week modules. It has been offered in the Eaton Re-2 School District as an independent, fee-based, after-school program for eight years.

Lewis' students were learning about ethics, honor, communication and power when the idea came to Lewis about how to include the seniors.

"Part of the training is that there is a lot of failure in leadership," Lewis said. "So we want to teach them to fail in a safe environment. And the great thing is we're not here to teach them or tell them how, but to coach them and pull out their natural abilities to lead." The students' natural abilities led to them to creating a proposal that asked businesses in Eaton for money to buy fleece. They also organized "Hat Friday," which allowed students and teachers to wear hats to school on Fridays for 50 cents.

They made tie blankets out of the fleece and then wrapped them. With the leftover money, they made goodie bags for each senior as well, with lotion and other items inside.

"They learned all about communication," Lewis said. "They did a presentation to the Chamber of Commerce and had to go around to local businesses, too. But best part is they can deliver the blankets themselves. With the giving tree, they can't deliver them because of confidentiality issues." The kids said it was the best time they've had.

"We decided we could go bigger this year," said Savannah Noonan, a fifth-grader at the school.

"It's a good thing we've done," added Bekah Scott, also a fifth-grader. "Some of the seniors may have family members, but they don't get a lot from our community like they should." Sherrie Peif covers education for The Tribune. Her column runs on Mondays. If you have an idea for a feature, contact Sherrie at (970) 392-5632 or by email at speif@greeleytribune.com.

___ (c)2012 the Greeley Tribune (Greeley, Colo.) Visit the Greeley Tribune (Greeley, Colo.) at www.greeleytribune.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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