Cindy Fitzpatrick's former students haven't forgotten her.
In fact, at least one of them is responsible for a holiday miracle at Rising Sun Elementary School where Fitzpatrick, now the school's principal, started her teaching career in 1980.
Just in time for Christmas, one of Fitzpatrick's former students, who is now a business owner, turned out at the school and presented her with $1,000 check. The man remembers a time when he needed help and the community was there for him. He did the same thing a year ago. This year, he also brought another business owner friend, and they each gave $1,000. The stipulation was that it be used to help needy children in the school. "They (business owners) wanted it to go to children. They want kids to have a good Christmas," said Fitzpatrick.
Then a local church chipped in $500. That church also gave hats, coats, and gloves to the school.
Those donations are needed in a school that is facing many challenges.
The school has about 700 students enrolled in pre-school through grade five. Five percent of the students are Hispanic, there's a large population of special needs students, and the number of free and reduced meals has doubled over the last few years.
That poses a challenge because before learning can begin, basic needs - food and clothing - have to be met. There are multiple families living in one home and some children have no fixed address and are classified as homeless.
Fitzpatrick said that in addition to the donations, the community works to meet the needs of the students.
For the holidays, nearly two dozen students attended the Ravens Roost breakfast and about 45 were adopted in the community with Christmas gifts. Regularly the St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Rising Sun Lions Club prepare weekend food for students in need to take home on Fridays.
"I've seen the needs of the community change. When I was teaching, there were more traditional families. Students didn't have the social and emotional needs they have today. We have to build relationships before they can learn," she said.
Fitzpatrick was tearful as she expressed her gratitude.
"People understand there are needs here. I don't worry about it. I know the community will come through. I've said that it will take the whole community to help us. The community has stepped up. The community cares about this school," Fitzpatrick added.