With one week to go until the big day, most children are focused on what may be under the tree at Christmas. But some youngsters in Pender County have been focusing on something else: learning the importance of giving and helping others less fortunate.
The best lessons in school are not always about reading, writing and 'rithmetic. For fourth graders at Cape Fear Elementary in Rocky Point, reading a book about homelessness has led to many more important lessons about the meaning of Christmas.
"It was really awesome," fourth grader Kimberly Andreassen said, "because I've never done anything like this before, and it's cool to help the community."
Last week one class baked 48 loaves of pumpkin bread for the hungry. Others put together 76 goodie bags with toiletries and other personal items the students donated. Two classes made 50 fleece blankets with grant money teacher Keenan Tusing received.
"We used sharp, sharp scissors," student Anthony Lopez said. "And then you cut like four inches, and then you tie it."
The children donated what they made to Pender County Christian Services. It was a chance for the youngsters to play Santa instead of just waiting for the jolly old elf to deliver.
"I am overwhelmed by these children," PCCS Vice President Sandy Harris said. "It's amazing how these fourth graders and their teachers have worked so hard to make this happen."
The students say the experience is a lesson that will last a lifetime.
"I think it's really important so that when we grow up we can know that it's good to do this," Reilly Smith, another fourth grader, said.
And their teacher says it's an especially powerful experience in this school where 66 percent of children get free or reduced-price lunch.
"I think some of the kids may have realized that. That this could be them one day that might need something like this." Tusing said. "And that makes this hit home a little bit more; that they don't have some of the stuff that we donated, and this might end up coming back to them in the end."
Harris says the food and personal items the kids put together went to Safe Haven in Pender County. She says the blankets will go to Safe Haven, the Pender County Sheriff's Office, Pender Memorial Hospital's emergency room and county nursing homes.