(Above: Stittsville Public School student Ella S. helps sort some of the many donations received.)
When my eight year old daughter suggested that we “adopt-a-family” from the Food Cupboard on behalf of her grade three class at Stittsville Public School, I thought to myself: “Sure! Why not! What a great little project to do with her classmates”.
Her teacher was immediately supportive, and the initiative grew to include over half the classes at SPS, with nine families being “adopted” by our school. The “little project” became a task of gargantuan proportions, but the payoff was priceless.
I strive to teach my children by example. I hope that they grow into giving, thoughtful and compassionate adults, with a strong sense of social responsibility, and an understanding of the important role of community in an individual’s life. The idea of “adopting” a family appealed to me as a way to include my children in giving to others, and in understanding how very lucky we are.
I started by sending a note home to the parents in each of the classes who had adopted a family. My email was quickly bombarded with offers, sentiments of support, and gratitude that the students were being exposed to something so important. Donations started to flood in faster than I could pick them up, and I was making stops at the school almost every day to pick up items from the classrooms. I had parents emailing and offering to shop for me; to come over and organize groceries in my basement; to have their children take notices door to door to the neighbours to get the community involved too.
I was touched to receive an email from a mom who told me that her grade 5 twins, Courtney B and Cole B, had enthusiastically gone out and purchased items for their families with their allowances.
When my neighbour found out what I was up to, he dropped four frozen turkeys off to be given to the families. I told my doctor what my daughter had started, and her office staff held a bake sale to contribute funds to the purchase of the Christmas dinners.
Another grade 5 student emailed me with a heartwarming question: would it be okay if she knit scarves to donate to the grandma and grandpa who had been adopted in her classroom? She worked very hard to complete gorgeous, handmade items to be included in her basket My fourth child’s preschool teacher volunteered herself and her two sons to do the grocery shopping for the baskets, as well as to help me pack the items and deliver them to the Food Cupboard.
A member of a church in our community showed up on my porch with a $400 donation. Another SPS student donated a $100 gift card for groceries from her church as well. I was contacted by two local banks who found out about what we were up to, and wanted to donate funds to our cause. A local baker brought me nine dozen cupcakes for the families’ desserts. A fellow Stittsville mom spent her Sunday baking meat pies.
A grade three student came to my house, held out her mittened hand and gave me a twoonie that she had just received from her Grandma. She wanted to know if she could help me sort food, instead of give money, as they did not have much to give. She, her Mom and her Grandma came back after school the next day, and saved me hours of work in sorting, had I had to do it on my own.
A mom and her grade three son came to help and I overheard her tearing up as she hugged her son and told him: “what we are looking at here is Christmas for nine families. Can you just imagine how wonderful this will be for them?” As they left, the mom thanked me for providing them with the opportunity to help.
Who could have imagined the response would be so great? I was nervous to send my letters home to the SPS families, hoping that no one would feel I was forcing them to donate to my cause. I would never have predicted that not only would I receive overwhelming response from the school, but that the community would reach out to me, unprompted, and provide more than I could have asked for.
As for my desire to lead by example and teach my children through my actions? My children have been witness to this outpouring of kindness. They helped me carry and sort the donations. They welcomed strangers into our home, and assisted with whatever tasks these people had come to do. They saw their peers and their community giving so much to those in need, and they have learned even more than I could have hoped.
In the words of some of our grade six students: “It is great to help families in need… it inspires everyone. It is not just for the families who need help, but also for us, because it inspires us to help others. It helps our community and school to understand the importance of giving to others. Stittsville Public School is PROUD to support adopt-a-family for the Food Cupboard!” –Sabrina L., Ally G., Grace M., Tanner G.
The staff, students and parents at Stittsville Public have overwhelmed me with their support and generosity. This year we are supporting nine families: who knows how many we will be able to help in the future! I would like to extend a sincere “Thank You!” to all the SPS staff, students and families, as well as those in the Stittsville community as a whole, who have made this possible.