Cooper stu­dents learn about giv­ing and re­ceiv­ing

The Weekly Vista - - News - LYNN ATKINS latkins@nwadg.com

A table in the coun­selor’s of­fice at Cooper Ele­men­tary School is cov­ered with neat piles. Some are ap­pli­ca­tions, some are fly­ers and most are about Christ­mas giv­ing. There are sev­eral ways that fam­i­lies with chil­dren at Cooper can en­joy Christ­mas this year.

Al­though Bella Vista ap­pears pros­per­ous, the stu­dent pop­u­la­tion at Cooper in­cludes 28 per­cent who qual­ify for free or re­duced school lunches. Many of those fam­i­lies don’t look for ex­tra help at Christ­mas, coun­selor Buddy Herndon said, but there are fam­i­lies that just can’t af­ford the ex­tra ex­penses of the hol­i­days. He al­ways checks with the par­ents be­fore of­fer­ing help to a child.

Herndon knows sev­eral ways that peo­ple in need can get help for the hol­i­days. He helps the lo­cal po­lice depart­ment chose the par­tic­i­pants for “Shop With A Cop.” Of­fi­cers take needy kids to Wal­mart and they shop for the child and the fam­ily.

When churches call with of­fers to help, Herndon can help match them with a fam­ily. A fam­ily pro­vides in­for­ma­tion about their needs, in­clud­ing cloth­ing sizes and the chil­dren’s in­ter­ests and a match is made. But it’s not just churches that want to adopt a fam­ily, Herndon said. In­di­vid­u­als, in­clud­ing school staff, also want to help.

Each year some stu­dents are faced with an emer­gency, he said. These are the fam­i­lies that typ­i­cally don’t ask for help, but a sud­den ill­ness or job loss may leave them fac­ing a bleak Christ­mas. A Face­book group is one of the ways emer­gen­cies can be met.

Not long ago, Herndon learned about a stu­dent who was liv­ing with his mother in an apart­ment that was vir­tu­ally empty. The mother had abruptly left an abu­sive re­la­tion­ship and couldn’t af­ford ba­sic fur­ni­ture. When Herndon put the word out on “Cooper Gives Back,” a Face­book page, of­fers started rolling in. A sep­a­rate Face­book page, “Pos­i­tively Bella Vista,” also put the word out and Herndon spent days co­or­di­nat­ing all the of­fers to en­sure the fam­ily didn’t re­ceive du­pli­cates of couches, beds and ta­bles.

He spent a day with his own truck and trailer pick­ing up do­na­tions. So did a cou­ple of the Pos­i­tively Bella Vista mem­bers. At the end of the day, the apart­ment was com­pletely fur­nished, in­clud­ing dishes, bed­ding, and even some toys.

“It was a bless­ing,” Herndon said.

The district’s so­cial work­ers and the district-wide Bright Fu­tures pro­gram were also in­volved.

He posted a thank-you note writ­ten by the young stu­dent that said, “When you sur­prised me, I was so happy. I thought that was in a dream … I hope I can live here for­ever.”

Cooper kids learn that Christ­mas is about giv­ing as well as re­ceiv­ing. The Cooper PTO spon­sors a Santa Shop where the stu­dents can shop for their fam­i­lies. The mer­chan­dise is mostly do­nated and priced very low. But a few fam­i­lies still can’t af­ford it, so the PTO gives each teacher at the school a few vouch­ers so that ev­ery sin­gle stu­dent can shop.

Two or­ga­ni­za­tions, both the K-Kids, a group re­lated Ki­wa­nis, and the stu­dent coun­cil, have their own ser­vice projects. The K-Kids have been mak­ing cards for vet­er­ans and for nurs­ing home res­i­dents. They will prob­a­bly both help with a fundraiser for the Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal.

The school will hold a school-wide canned food drive this month, and many fam­i­lies par­tic­i­pated in the coat drive that was or­ga­nized by the POA’s Com­mu­nity In­volve­ment Com­mit­tee. Some Cooper kids will re­ceive those coats once they have been sorted and or­ga­nized, Herndon said.

“They en­joy the giv­ing back,” he ex­plained.

Lynn Atkins/The Weekly Vista

Tif­fany Hast­ings of the Cooper Ele­men­tary Par­ent Teacher Or­ga­ni­za­tion ad­justs the star on a tree in the school’s lobby. The PTO is one of the or­ga­ni­za­tions that help en­sure all Cooper kids en­joy a merry Christ­mas.

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