by Lisa Tome
If you want to know how the economy is doing, ask Dawn Reed.
Reed, guidance counselor at Conowingo Elementary isn't noticing an upswing. "I'm seeing more homeless (students) than in year's past," said Reed.
That increased need means that school staff works closely with community organizations to make sure students don't go without. She said that food baskets went to needy families at Thanksgiving. And for Christmas, other families will get help.
The school partners with churches, Ravens Roost #119, and others to make sure children receive gifts, coats, and more.
But it's also the giving season for students. In October, Conowingo students held a drive for sheltered pets. Collections of food, blankets, and more were gathered and donated. November's Turkey Trot also meant that the school collected non-perishable food for Ray of Hope Mission.
This month, deployed members of the military have been the focus of the giving.
"The kids bring in stuff for stockings and write notes for the soldiers," said Reed.
For the sixth year, Crouch Funeral Home, in partnership with the community, is gathering Christmas Stockings for Soldiers. Conowingo partnered with the funeral home and donated items to fill the stockings. Late last week, Patty Demond who coordinates the effort for Crouch Funeral Home explained that the funeral home supplies the stockings and pays the shipping. The rest of the work and the shopping is done by volunteers like those at Conowingo Elementary. "We have churches, schools, and the military organizations. Anyone can participate. They can take as many as they want. Everyone likes this project. The community steps up, they really do," she said. Indications were that about 1,300 stockings would be filled and sent this year.
"This is teaching the children not to forget that the soldiers are serving us. We give to these people because the soldiers are giving up time with their families. And we want to give back to them," said Reed.
Students have stuffed stockings with items such as hand sanitizer, gum, shampoo, soap, cell phones, snacks, games, candy, and puzzle books.
Fifth grader Megan Bines said that she included a toothbrush, socks, candy canes, and snacks in the stocking she stuffed.
Fifth grader Mark Ghattas said it's important that soldiers know they aren't forgotten during the holidays. His classmate, Michael Johansen said he stuffed a stocking because it's important to "send something to someone who may not get something for Christmas."