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Students at Evangeline Middle School in New Minas embody spirit of giving through Tree of Hope

Evangeline Middle School students gather around the Tree of Hope just prior to a special assembly on Dec. 21 where money raised and gifts donated through the initiative were presented to representatives of Chrysalis House and the Kids Action Program.
Evangeline Middle School students gather around the Tree of Hope just prior to a special assembly on Dec. 21 where money raised and gifts donated through the initiative were presented to representatives of Chrysalis House and the Kids Action Program. - Kirk Starratt

Generosity to continue with charitable work benefiting community throughout school year

NEW MINAS, NS - It’s an initiative that instills the value of generosity in young people and sets a great example for the community in general.

Students at Evangeline Middle School in New Minas carried on the long-standing tradition of the Tree of Hope this year, resulting in a mountain of donations for children and families in need at Christmas time.

Grade 7 homeroom teacher Freda Larade said storm days created some challenges but students were able to raise in excess of $300 through the sale of 25 cent “candygrams” over five days during recess and lunch hours. A candygram is a candy cane along with a special message for the recipient.

She said students volunteered to deliver the candygrams, made signage and promoted the Tree of Hope campaign on Twitter and Facebook to rally community support. The school community, including students, staff, parents and businesses, also donated new items to the cause, placing an emphasis on gifts suitable for teens.

The money and other donations, including gift cards, are divided evenly and donated to Chrysalis House and the Kids Action Program. Larade said the initiative emphasizes the necessity for everyone to work together to address need in our community.

Students making a difference

The Tree of Hope exploratory will continue into the new year with the students carrying on the charitable work, including preparing a meal for the Open Arms shelter. Generosity tends to be focused on the holiday season but the need for donations and other support continues year-round.

Larade sums up the Tree of Hope initiative with a famous 1931 quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “If we are to reach real peace in this world, we shall have to begin with children.”

Evangeline Middle School students gather for the Tree of Hope assembly.
Evangeline Middle School students gather for the Tree of Hope assembly.

 

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EVANGELINE MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS MAKE POSITIVE IMPACT ON COMMUNITY THROUGH TREE OF HOPE

Grade 7 student Brooke Alcoe said she thinks the Tree of Hope is a very good cause. She was impressed with the amount of donations they collected.

“There was a class competition and I think that helped bring a lot more stuff in,” Alcoe said.

Sometimes people need something to fall back on at Christmas time. Families might not have enough money to provide what is needed, so it’s nice that the students can help out with a fundraiser.

Alcoe said it feels good to help members of the community who are in need and it’s important to do so, not only at Christmas but all the time. She would like to see more people take this to heart.

Grade 7 student Kirsten Durber said it’s really great that there are people who are willing to give to those in our community who don’t have a lot. For families in need, she hopes the initiative will help “make their holiday” but it’s also important to keep the spirit of giving alive all year long.

“I think it’s great that everyone is helping out and hopefully they won’t just do that around Christmas, they’ll do it all the time,” Durber said.

Support greatly appreciated

Chrysalis House children’s outreach worker Linda Lapierre said the student effort makes her feel optimistic and it bodes well for the future. These children will grow up to be the next generation of volunteers and community board members.

“They’re taking their role as citizens and community members seriously,” Lapierre said.

She said the Tree of Hope donations are a big help to Chrysalis House at Christmas time. For the women and children at the shelter receiving this support, just knowing that people care about them is a big thing. They greatly appreciate the time, effort and thought behind it.

Kids Action Program director Suann Boates said the Tree of Hope brings consciousness to the fact that “in Kings County, poverty is alive and doing well.” Some kids live a comfortable life and are unaware that some of their neighbours and fellow students suffer from profound poverty.

Boates said she would be delivering the donations directly to recipient families that afternoon. These families have a very modest Christmas. She said people looking to help could donate gift cards or food vouchers.

“What happens is a lot of folks spend their rent money for December on Christmas and then in January, they’re in trouble,” Boates said.

She said they like to make sure that these families have some sense of food security, so they often save some of the gift cards or food vouchers for distribution in January.

Bus tickets and gas cards are also very helpful as transportation often poses a huge challenge for these families. People have to be able to get around to create positive shift and change in their lives. The biggest part of the Kids Action Program budget goes toward providing transportation so that parents can attend programming.

Boates said buying toys for children in need at Christmas time is important and makes people feel good but sometimes it’s more practical support that families really need during the holidays.

Some community members offer to sponsor a family at Christmas and are often taken aback by the list of items needed because they are such practical things.

Sometimes kids just want a new winter jacket or proper boots, for example, so that their poverty isn’t so visible to their classmates.

Kirk.starratt@kingscountynews.ca

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