Giving from the Heart

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CULLMAN — Cullman Caring for Kids received a huge and most pleasant surprise as trucks and trailers full of canned goods arrived from a drive at West Elementary School on Tuesday. There was debate over whether the actual number of cans was 6,471 or 6,472; but hey–just pick one and look at that number! The school, which has given to CCK for years, often averages 3,000 to 3,500 cans per annual drive. This time was just something special.

The massive charitable haul was the result of a contest among classes at West, in which the Student Council and 6th-grade teacher/project sponsor Kristy White pitted class against class to see who could bring in the largest number of cans. Winners got to go out for lunch and helped deliver the bounty to CCK’s office.

Principal Dr. Jay Page was overjoyed with his students, telling The Tribune, “We talk about character education all the time, and it’s part of what we do in our curriculum; but for them to kind of take that at such a young age, to give back and have a sense of giving, it kind of makes you feel like we’re in a special school and have a lot of great families and great students. Very proud of them, and Ms. White does a great job of organizing it.

“And we’ve had a really good group of Student Council officers that are leaders, that get out and promote things. They bring me ideas all the time! And I think that may have had a lot to do with it, too. They have a great sponsor in Ms. White, and we had some really good leaders this year among our students, who I think promoted this and got the word out.

“I was blown away, to be honest, by the contributions that we had. Usually we take one trailer; this year we had to take two trailers. And I think (CCK) is very appreciative of it, too. We’ve always had a good relationship with them, and they’re always thankful when we go over to make our donations.”

West ES Student Council President Olivia Dover told us, “I just think everyone wanted to, like, support and stuff, and they just wanted to try to win and stuff, and they just wanted to try to support our school as much as they can. I’m really happy for them, for everyone, for doing that.”

Did competition help? 

Said Dover, “Yes, if you win, you get to deliver the cans, and go to Pasquale’s to eat pizza and have a pizza party, and then deliver them to the food bank.”

Who was the winning class?

Dover told us, “It was Ms. White’s class, but Ms. (Candice) Grobe’s (4th grade) class got to go, too, and they both had over a thousand cans.” 

White added, “And a great thing they did: they got on our intercom system every day leading up to it and every day saying, ‘Hey, we’re doing the can drive. It’s going to our food bank.’ They were encouraging our student body every day; either Olivia or one of her officers were doing that every day. You know, it’s nice to have encouragement.

“I am just proud of West Elementary School: our student body and the teachers. Another big plus is that the teachers hopped in there and encouraged, and let our students know that this is going to help other families in our community; and that our students took the time bringing in and checking, some calling, ‘Hey, Mom, we need a few more!’ But the big thing is that they knew this was going to be helping people in our community.

“Today, Mr. (Javon) Daniel took them around and told them about how many families that they help–over 600 a month–and how many months what we brought was going to help. And I’m going to let them share that with our student body tomorrow.

“We had 2,100 last year, so we really tripled this year to 6,400. We usually did about 3,000 or 3,500, but last year–I looked it up–it was 2,100; and we did 64. That’s unbelievable. That is unbelievable, and it shows the heart of our students.”

Later in the day, CCK Director Javon Daniel told The Tribune, “What a blessing it is to have children like those at West Elementary who truly want to give back. The name of the can drive was ‘Giving from the Heart.’ The name couldn't have been more appropriate. This week I have seen a giving spirit coming from our children. I know it's because they have a good example by watching the adults in this giving community. Thank you, kids, for donating the food and for helping unload it.”

Please note: we are proud to celebrate student achievements, but we and the school are also concerned for their welfare and their families’ privacy. The West ES administration contacted Olivia Dover’s mother and received permission from her for our interview.