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Hazel Park

Webb Elementary goes all-out for Holiday Baskets

Students bring in goods for those in need

December 20, 2012

» click to enlarge «
Kids at Webb Elementary in Hazel Park sit near the “Mitten Tree,” while Kathy Nagy, PTA president, left, and Principal Jamie Knapp hold some of the items collected.

FERNDALE — The community at Webb Elementary exceeded their own expectations this month, when their efforts to collect cans for the annual Hazel Park Holiday Baskets brought in nearly twice as many goods as last year.

“I’m overwhelmed by the support and generosity,” said Jamie Knapp, principal at Webb Elementary. “It’s still a tough year for a lot of families, so it amazed me that we did so well. I’m bewildered because we always do this, but this year was exceptional.”

The new record Webb set is 5,032 cans collected, beating last year’s record of 2,721. Gayle Guardado’s first-grade class brought in the most, at 828 items, followed by Scott Hanna’s fourth-grade class, with 720 items. Guardado’s and Hanna’s classes received pizza parties as a reward, and the entire school was treated to a special ice cream sundae treat for putting in the extra effort to exceed last year’s total.

There were also a number of hats, mittens and scarves collected, strung up like ornaments on one of two Christmas trees in the front lobby of the school. These items were donated to the holiday baskets, as well, but not included in the final count.

The holiday baskets have been a district tradition for more than 30 years. Families struggling financially are given boxes that each contain canned goods, cereal and a $10 shopping card to Kroger, as well as a Dearborn holiday ham, bagged separately. In addition, each school-age child among the recipient families receives a brand new board game, book, hat and mittens.

Items are collected at all schools in the Hazel Park district, which also serves parts of Ferndale. The deadline for applications was Nov. 30, and donations were accepted up through Dec. 7. This year, about 10,000 items were collected across all sites, helping 310 families, in all.

Sherrie Polowski, a Hazel Park Board of Education trustee who organizes the baskets program alongside board vice-president Laura LaForme, said it was incredible how Webb accounted for roughly half of all items collected this year.

“It truly was unbelievable to see the spirit of giving,” Polowski said. 

The food items collected at Webb Elementary were piled under another Christmas tree inside the school, stacked like gifts so the kids could see how their contributions were adding up to help those in need. The school’s secretary, Cheryl Hayes, also made a visual of a thermometer that filled up as they got closer to their goal, alongside a classroom chart showing each group’s haul — both effective motivators.

Guardado said there were also opportunities to integrate the can-collection effort into the curriculum.

“In my classroom, this really coincides with our first-grade social studies unit right now, talking about economics, what we call ‘needs and wants,’” Guardado said. “We talk about scarcity and how we have people who have things that are extra, which is the surplus, and in economics, most of the time, the things that are extra are often sold, which is what is emphasized. So a sense of charity, then, is that sometimes things that are extra can be given, and not with money involved.

“It’s a lesson in charity and giving to your fellow man,” she said. “It’s something our community here has always done.” 

Webb Elementary is located at 2100 Woodward Heights Boulevard and can be reached at (248) 658-5902.

About the author

Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski covers Madison Heights, Hazel Park, Madison District Public Schools, Lamphere Public Schools and Hazel Park Public Schools for the Madison-Park News.

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