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Young and giving hearts reach out to community
Local students lend their funds, efforts to help area charities this holiday
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Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School kindergartners and their teachers walk to the Love Light tree Thursday at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center to deliver their donation to the hospital's yearlong fundraiser for hospice care. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

School children across the area are getting an important lesson in giving as the holiday season continues.

On Thursday, elementary school classes from Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School collected their own money to donate to Love Light. In less than two weeks, they had collected $109.

"The teachers said if they found a penny on the playground they would rush it into the classroom," Julie Holland, a spokeswoman for Northeast Georgia Medical Center said.

The donation to Love Light will go to hospice patients at the medical center to help families pay heating bills or pay for a baby sitter while the caretaker steps out to buy groceries.

"It's anything they may need in the last few months of a patient's life," said Brenda Jones, volunteer coordinator for the medical center.

That afternoon, students walked down the street from the elementary school to the Love Light garden outside of the North Patient Tower at the hospital. Wearing jingle bells around their necks, they sang Christmas carols before sending off the money to Light Love co-directors Jane and Frank Lake.

"They're learning to give and help others and what Christmas is really about," Holland said.

The Love Light tradition dates back 31 years, she added. Throughout the year, people can purchase Christmas lights for $10, stars for $100 and angels for $500. All proceeds go to hospice patients.

Organizers at various schools across the county are also working on charitable projects, namely the annual food bank drives.

Kay Blackstock, executive director of the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, said a large part of the donations the bank receives each holiday season comes from local schools. In the last year, the food bank has distributed more than 35,000 pounds of food to people in need.

About seven schools are working with the bank this year, including West Hall High School, Gainesville Middle School and North Hall High School.

At Chestatee High School, students in the Key Club held a competition called "canstruction," in which students designed and built structures from collected cans.

"It's like making a sand castle out of cans. The boys made this big tall tower and the girls were more conservative and covered the whole tabletop with a fortress type thing. The boys won, they took the big risk and they won," Blackstock said. "They enjoyed collecting the food and that was an extra component."

Blackstock said the donations provide crucial assistance, especially at this time of the year.

"It's not a secret that in this economy that we have more people in need than we've ever seen," she said.

Other projects include clothing donations, such as a coat drive at Davis Middle School.

Students from the Partnerships for Success Club, an inclusive club for students with disabilities and students without, had an aim to collect 100 coats in 10 days: Nov. 29 to Dec. 10. The students have collected more than 200.

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