Twenty years ago, Mary Beth Moye decided her students at Banks Elementary School could benefit from a lesson about the value of giving, what’s known this time of year as the true meaning of Christmas.
She organized a supply drive to assist a couple of local nonprofits, including the Friends of the Homeless shelter in Kinston.
First, the charitable campaign surprised her by outgrowing her expectations. “The kids started bringing in items and it got too big for my classroom. We started putting it in the gym,” Moye said Wednesday. “We opened (donations) up to the whole school and we filled the whole front of the gym.”
Then the campaign surprised her by lasting this long, by becoming a Christmas tradition at Banks over two decades.
“Twenty years is a long time,” she said. “It just grew. It just became part of our school, part of what we do this time of year. I didn’t realize at the time how big it was going to become or how long it was going to last, but I’m glad that it has.”
There have been a few modifications over the years. Donations now go exclusively to the homeless shelter. For several years now, the campaign has been called The Giving Tree, and students are asked to bring food or supplies for the shelter instead of giving their teacher a Christmas gift. Paper ornaments bearing the name of the donating student and the teacher being honored are affixed to a tree in the school’s lobby.
But the lesson for students is unchanged. “It’s about the gift of giving, just teaching them that this is what it’s really about, giving back,” said Moye. “I think our kids are so blessed, and they don’t realize how blessed they are a lot of times.”
Jasper Newborn, longtime manager of the homeless shelter, will come to Banks on Friday morning to express his appreciation to Moye and the school and to pick up the donated supplies. He usually brings a few residents of the shelter to help gather the items.
That’s what is known, any time of year, as a teachable moment. “When it was just my classroom primarily, they would come into the classroom and talk to the kids,” Moye said. “With it involving the whole school, that’s not the case now; but at least the kids have an opportunity to put a face and a name with what we’re talking about here.”
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