Sunday, December 10, 2023

Kootenai Elementary gives back by helping others

| December 21, 2022 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — The season of giving is in full swing as Kootenai Elementary students and teachers give back to families with a tradition that goes back more than a decade.

With Collection for a Cause, Kootenai Elementary does its part to ease seasonal stress. The program provides selected families with nutritional breakfasts and lunches for the two-week winter holiday break, as well as a Christmas dinner. Coming packed full, the boxes provide breakfasts and lunches that don’t require a stove or oven and each meal comes complete with all of the ingredients needed.

“This is such an amazing program with over a decade of history,” Kristen Hawkins, Lake Pend Oreille School District communications liaison, said.

Sparking of a little friendly competition among every classroom in the school, the program has each class participate in an annual change drive. With proceeds going toward the purchase of the meals, this year's drive began immediately after Thanksgiving break in late November and generated more than $2,200 in funds in less than two weeks. Officially ending on Dec. 8, the success seen in that short time prompted Kootenai Elementary's principal, Kelli Knowles, to extend the drive, adding two days. Now ending Dec. 10, the decision proved to success — and resulted in a grand total of $3,574.

“We are using this fundraiser as a lesson; we are growing hearts and minds here at Kootenai Elementary,” Knowles said.

Starting 11 years ago, Collection for a Cause is a favorite of students and has even gained the attention of local businesses and community members who don’t have children who attend the school. One community member donated $2,500 and Sweet Lou’s pitched in with wholesale turkeys.

“Kids years later are remembering this cause and asking, “Are you still doing it?” It’s a feel-good memory of KT Elementary,” Knowles said.

Sparked by the concern of former Kootenai Elementary teacher Kyla French, the program offers parents a solution to the question “What can my child prepare while I’m at work.” A question French and many other staff members heard often, Knowles said.

Over the years the program has grown from serving 10 families to this year serving 24 families, which still doesn’t come close to the record of 38 families. This year, the program has taken it one step further by partnering with the “Giving Tree” program at Serve-A-Burger.

To determine which families need help, after Thanksgiving a form is sent home with students to check in with parents and see if they need assistance. From those submissions and the nominations of staff, phone calls are made to follow up, Knowles said.

“The cool thing is, some years we will give a box to a family, and then we call them the next year and they say “no, we are good this year. How can we help?” she added.

Although the drive is a friendly competition, there is still an air of camaraderie with some classes putting together encouraging material such as musical commercials meant to inspire the students to support their friends and classmates.

Knowles said the program also has an educational factor. Selecting students to help count they are asked math-directed questions such as “how much does it cost to feed 30 families?”

“We are involving kids in life skills principles like cost, counting change and advertising,” Knowles said.

With winter break now underway, families selected were sent home with their boxes last week, and Lake Pend Oreille students will return to school Jan. 3.

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