Black Mountain-area schools teaching the art of giving

Margaret Hurt
Special to The Black Mountain News

In an age when young people having so much materially, many local schools are stressing community service for their students.

During this holiday season, community schools are encouraging students to give to others in their community and beyond. Recently, the front lobby at Owen Middle School was filled with boxes of canned goods under the decorated “giving tree,” a student council project to collect food and toiletries for Swannanoa Valley Christian Minstry. Toys collected in the school’s lobby go to the Smoky Mountain Toy Run.

In the lobby of Black Mountain Elementary, a holiday tree is decorated with hats, gloves and socks for veterans at the Veteran’s Restoration Quarters in Oteen. In Jim Griffin fourth-grade classroom, families are given an opportunity to participate in “Project Goodwill,” which allows classroom families to give gifts anonymously to those in the school needing assistance.

At Black Mountain Primary, the Sharpen the Saw program lets third graders select a special interest class from a range of topics. A class taught by third-grade teacher Nora Nelson undertook a community service project - collecting items for local homeless people in the community.

A toy collection at Owen High will benefit local children. As part of her graduation project, senior Sierra Gerringer made and donated blankets for children through Project Linus, a national nonprofit organization.

Griffin serves as Black Mountain Elementary liaison for the K-Kids club, an altruistic club sponsored at Kiwanis Club.

“I feel very strongly about boys and girls learning to give back to the community in which they live and to make the world a better place for all,” Griffin said. “If students learn at an early age that it better to give than to receive, I feel that as individuals, they will reap the rewards of their efforts in helping others two-fold.”

This fall, the K-Kids club made greeting cards for Meals on Wheels recipients and Highland Farms residents. Club members walked together in the Black Mountain Christmas Parade to collect two carloads of food for Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry. In the spring, they will conduct fundraisers to contribute to the Hand in Hand ministry and Brother Wolf.

This semester, the 30 students in the Owen Middle Builders Club, another Kiwanis project, have helped at the Elida Homes corn maze and visited the State Veterans Home to sing carols. They plan to volunteer at Brother Wolf and MANNA FoodBank this spring and raise funds for a charity of the club’s choice.

“I love teaching that there is more to giving than just money,” said Caroline Ayers, a club liaisons. “Giving is about time, effort and thought.”

Owen Middle principal Heidi Von Dohlen believes students “giving back” makes them take pride in themselves and their community.

“When I speak with groups of students, I often remind them that none of us are successful all on our own. We all need the help of others,” she said. “If you expand that concept to that of a community, no community can be successful with individuals only looking out for themselves. We need our collaborative efforts to maximize our existence.”

Von Dohlen has been impressed by her students’ giving.

“Often, we find that those who give the most actually have the least,” she said. “This year a student from Black Mountain Home (for Children) came to the office on two different occasions to give a dollar from his allowance to our toy drive. In cases like this, our students are teaching us far more than we are teaching them.”