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‘Secret Elves’ at Heritage take kindness beyond school’s doors

MADISON – For community outreach at Christmastime, second-graders at Heritage Elementary School became “Secret Elves” to spread holiday cheer to people who often are overlooked.

“We started Secret Elves in 2018, with two groups dear to our hearts,” second-grade teacher Adrian Wells said. The first group involved children who visited a local food pantry where a teacher volunteered on weekends. The other people were nursing home residents where a teacher’s mother worked as activity director.

“Our students, kids at the food pantry and nursing home residents were very excited about the items we collected and wrapped. It made us realize the joy that small acts of kindness can bring,” Wells said.

For 2021, Heritage volunteers focused on Heritage Assisted Living and Memory Care. Participating teachers were Lakesha Doughty, Megan Gowan, Anna Harmon, Chanyn Hill, Angelia Hyatt, Heather Newland, Adrian Wells and Gina Wood.

“(We) hoped by doing something as simple as giving to those in need that people would see that even second-graders can make a difference,” Wells said.

For two weeks, student families brought donations for the second-grade celebration on Dec. 15. Each class wrapped and labeled donations from Secret Elves. Gifts included puzzle/word search books, adult coloring books, colored pencils, washcloths, body wash, lotions, hair brushes, combs, piece puzzles and candy.

Students couldn’t wait until afternoon to wrap presents. They enjoyed helping each other by holding paper, tearing tape and placing bows for the finishing touch. “They were all in a jolly mood! They were excited to create gifts for those who might not otherwise receive anything for Christmas. Several kids also included handmade cards so residents would know a kid in second grade thought of them,” Wells said.

Heritage Assisted Living received the elves’ gifts. One teacher met with Nicole Hall, Activity Director and Office Manager, and discussed the vision for second-graders to learn about kindness beyond the school’s doors. “Nicole Hall was very touched and excited we chose their residents,” Wells said.

However, some students struggled with ‘giving instead of receiving.’ Students were puzzled. One student asked about giving some items to her mother, instead of the elderly. Teachers explained that sometimes the nursing home residents don’t see their families often . . . not even on Christmas.

Some classes envisioned a secret mission to spread joy. “This made students excited about helping to make someone else’s Christmas special. We have 154 second-graders at Heritage who worked hard to make this project a success,” Wells said

Heritage teachers delivered a truckload of wrapped gifts for the residents. Hall was surprised at the volume.

“Residents looked in awe at load after load of gifts. Mrs. Hall thanked us and said our timing was perfect because the Heritage gifts would be given out during the residents’ Christmas party that day. This was very touching because anyone who has witnessed a loved one in a (similar) facility realizes the value of every small gift and the huge difference it can make in someone’s day,” Wells said.

Heritage students always are looking to lead in positive ways. “Knowing they can make a difference using acts of giving within the community is a huge responsibility they accept with pride,” Wells said. “Students and their families are caring. We’re fortunate with the community we have here in Madison City.”

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