Times Journal

Posted December 23, 2014 at 2:24 pm

It’s been said that one of the true meanings of Christmas is in the giving, while one may have given a life for all, we can carry on the heart of that meaning through selfless giving to others.

The children of Salem Elementary exemplified the spirit of giving last week through their Christmas Mission 2014; 12 Days to Make a Difference.

Through the generous support of many individuals, businesses, and of course the students, Sale mElementary were able to fully stuff over 240 backpacks with goodies, essentials, toys and certificates for freebies while learning the meaning of giving.

Many weeks in planning, the event culminated in over 12,000 gifts spread out on lunchroom tables last Thursday, and many dozens of volunteer students choosing gifts for boys and girls to fill backpacks that will result in over 240 children of Russell County to have a better, and for some maybe, the only Christmas presents they may have gotten.

Over the years of adulthood the luster of gift receiving begins to lose it’s shine, but we still all remember the feeling of pure excitement of receiving Christmas gifts when we were a child. As adults, for many, the thrill of receiving slowly gravitates toward the thrill of giving, and what can be more thrilling than knowing that your effort has resulted in a giant smile on a child’s face?

It was this kind of thinking that resulted in the teachers of Salem Elementary, and their Principal Terry Grider, deciding to forgo a Christmas dinner and gifts for themselves, and instead work with the children and volunteers to take on the massive project.

Using the theme of 12 Days of Christmas, students brought in various items as they were able; whether it be toothbrushes and combs, coloring books or gloves, candy or toys, the children participated in putting together the 12,000 gifts and $3,000 in cash donations that will go toward providing a Christmas for children identified through Russell County’s Family Resource Center.

Phil Carney, Family Resource Center Coordinator for Salem and Russell Springs Elementary, took time to express thanks and explain the difference that the coordinated effort will mean for hundreds of children in the county.

“Mr. Grider actually had the thought of putting together the backpack so we all got together and put our heads together and it kind of took on a life of it’s own,” Carney said.

“The community was so great and I want to thank everyone on Mr. Grider’s behalf, and my own as well. The community was so supportive. There was a ton of business people and individuals who really stepped up and helped.”

Carney said the students were to be commended as well for taking ownership of the project, helping bring it to fruition.

“The kids brought in tons of items, and with the money we received from the community we were able to go ahead and finish buying the items we needed to fill the backpacks up with,” he said, along with recognizing the huge amount of donations from others and businesses.

At the event, the children and adults alike delighted in participating in filling backpacks, while enjoying cookies and cocoa and great fellowship. In about an hour’s time they were able to fill over 240 backpacks to overflowing.

Not all backpacks are spoken for and were still available.

“We hear about the bad stuff that happens all the time,” Carney said, going on to mention the difficult economic times of the county. “But there are tons of good people, I shouldn’t be surprised, but each year I’m amazed at how many people step up to the challenge and really want to help kids and really want to be involved.”

And in the process children learn the satisfaction of giving as well as receiving during the holidays.

“It was just a great night. It encompassed helping kids and it gives kids the perspective of doing something for somebody else,” Carney said. “That’s important and I think we get away from that sometimes with kids.”

The children of Salem Elementary received double blessings this year, the knowledge of the joy of giving as well as receiving.

A lesson they’ll carry with them throughout their lives.