Spirit of giving: Zionsville students show holiday compassion

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By Sara Baldwin Schatz and Heather Lusk

Throughout Zionsville Community Schools, students and faculty perform seasonal community services. Although some clubs encourage students to donate time to worthy causes year-round, the holidays can give service projects special meaning.

Sponsoring needy families

For the last five years, the Zionsville Community High School Key Club and National Honors Society have co-sponsored a family from Hattie B. Stokes Elementary School in Lebanon at Christmastime.

Seventy-five percent of the students at Stokes Elementary receive free or reduced lunch. The school has a food pantry and provides dinner and tutoring for its students.

“Sometimes the families just want a good Christmas for their children and sometimes they have individual needs,” said Cathy Busick, a ZCHS English teacher and NHS and Key Club sponsor.

The students choose gifts for the family based upon needs. They purchase, wrap and deliver them to Stokes Elementary Principal Kelly Sollman, who then gives the gifts to the family.

Key Club, an extension of Kiwanis International, organizes charity events throughout the year, including a trick-or-treat UNICEF fundraiser in October and filling Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes in November.

NHS is a special club for ZCHS juniors and seniors with a 3.6 GPA or higher. Students must be recommended by teachers, coaches or other sponsors to be considered for the club. Club members are required to partake in at least 10 hours of community service or more each semester.

Seasons of Sharing

ZCHS Student Council supports a different charity each year during the holidays, or organizes an event that will benefit others. Students council calls the initiative Seasons of Sharing.

“This year we decided that the So Big Mountain House would be a great organization for us to choose,” said Sophia Phan, student co-chair for the event.

So Big Mountain House in Whitestown is the first maternity house in Boone County. It helps women who are homeless or in volatile situations get back on their feet during the first year of motherhood.

So Big provided a wish list that included items for the residents as well as general needs for the house. The students worked within a committee-approved budget to buy the items.

Student council conducts a number of fundraising activities throughout the year, including the annual homecoming dance, and sells items such as class directories and class T-shirts.

“That money keeps us afloat throughout the year with different projects,” said Amanda Harmon, a ZCHS social studies teacher and student council sponsor.

The students shopped for items such as children’s clothing, shoes, games and books. For the mother, they purchased clothing, books, a spa experience and household items.

“We loved the idea of getting wish lists from the mothers and being able to make their holidays special,” Phan said.

Students wrapped the gifts in early December. Phan and co-chair Claire Kennedy delivered the items to the home.

“Giving the gifts was so fun because it was really special to be able to meet the residents and feel like we were making a difference in their lives,” Phan said. “It made us and our committee feel like we really fulfilled the epitome of the holiday season, which is giving back.”

Young makers help Eagle

Four third-graders at Eagle Elementary got a taste of entrepreneurship after creating a company to raise money for the school’s library media center.

Greer Hanlon was inspired to create the business, Stress Co, after participating in a school project last year to create a product and sell it to classmates. Elliott Keating, Kate Plassman and Ella Sepiol joined her in the project.

The girls presented a business plan to the school principal to sell their homemade items during the school book fair.

Each student was in charge of a different aspect, with Hanlon specializing in one type of stress ball, Sepiol focusing on slime and Keating in charge of marketing and creating posters. Plassman helped create rice-filled stress balls. They experimented with stress-ball prototypes.

Stress Co. sold 90 stress balls and 70 cups of slime and netted $200, which funded four chairs and seven books for the library.

The students agreed that by working together they discovered each had different strengths and skills to contribute to the business.

“We also learned a lot about economy and money,” Greer said.

Sepiol said they were challenged to find the right price point for their stress balls and still sell their inventory.

“I learned a better way to make a profit,” she said.

Stress Co. students are already planning to expand with additional products next year but haven’t decided what to create. They said they couldn’t do it without supportive families and teachers.

The donated chairs and books are in a corner of the library with a sign noting the silent reading spot is courtesy of Stress Co. Eagle’s media specialist Susan Ottinger was impressed that the girls wanted to support the school.

“This is why I do what I do because they care and it makes a difference to them,” said Ottinger.

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