COLUMBIA — Fifth-grade students at Mill Creek Elementary School had a holiday party Friday afternoon, but their party wasn't about playing games or making crafts. Instead, each student brought items to donate to Room at the Inn, a winter homeless shelter open in January and February.
Judi Privitt, fifth-grade teacher at Mill Creek, said one of the co-room parents asked her whether the children could do something special for their party. Privitt immediately thought of Room at the Inn.
"I am a member of the Columbia United Church of Christ, and we are one of the churches that help manage the Room at the Inn shelter," Privitt said. "I thought it will be a great way to make children better understand what homelessness is about."
Students, with the help of their parents, brought hats, gloves, scarves, non-perishable food and various toiletry items. They were divided into four groups and started to wrap each item.
"I am excited," Jordyn Schatzer, 11, said. "I am happy to help them out because they don't have much as we do, and there are things that they need."
Privitt said she tried to explain what it meant to be homeless to her students when she told them about this year's holiday party.
"We have hats and food and clothes to keep us warm, but there are people who can't afford to have the warmth we have," Preston Fancher, 11, said. "I brought socks, hats and gloves, and I know they are going to the overnight shelter who don't have homes."
Kathy Ungles, the co-room parent who suggested that the party have a different focus, was pleased with the new direction.
"I thought fifth-graders were grown out of making crafts," Ungles said. "Kids enjoy it, and people who will receive these donations will appreciate it. It's a win-win across the board for everybody."
Connor Bolin, 10, had $25 in his bank account. He took $20 of it out and went to the dollar store to buy hats, gloves, mittens, shirts and socks to donate to the shelter.
"I thought it was nice to give gifts on Christmas because they can't buy anything," Connor said. "This makes me feel happy, and wrapping presents is fun."
When the party almost ended, Privitt said she thought it had been a good idea.
"We gave them the spirit of Christmas," she said.
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