From hurricane relief to helping the less fortunate at Christmas, students at Carroll County High School have taken a crash course in philanthropy this holiday season.
Meaning love of mankind or giving for a purpose or cause benefitting people you don’t personally know, philanthropy is not a class or something CCHS students are graded on. But when you see what is going on in the halls of the Hillsville high school, you can see it is fully at work.
Among the different efforts ongoing at the school has been a canned food drive for the Carroll Christmas Fund, a local effort which provides toys, food, clothing and more for less fortunate families at Christmas. A goal was set to collect 2,018 food items, but the tenacious drive of the Carroll students has more than doubled that figure. Additionally, members of the CCHS Yearbook Staff and Interact Club banded together to collect carloads of toys for the Carroll Christmas Fund. On top of that, senior Izzy Largen single-handedly engineered a drive for victims of Hurricane Harvey and other hurricanes this fall that collected more than 600 total food, water and toiletry items.
“Our students have really embraced the idea of giving to others. This year the goal was to collect 2,018 food items. That goal was reached so we doubled the goal to 4,036 items. That goal has been reached as well,” Carroll County High School Principal Chuck Thompson said. “One student approached us with the idea to give to hurricane victims. Students have been donating to that cause as well. Our staff has collected money for students to receive gifts this Christmas. I’m proud of their efforts to try to make others’ Christmas brighter.”
Shannon Dalton, who heads up the yearbook staff and Interact Club at CCHS, said the toys for the Carroll Christmas Fund drive came from all over the school system – every Carroll County school, the school system’s Central Office, bus garage, school employees and students. Members of Dalton’s and Brandi Mitchell’s class raised money on their own and bought $240 worth of toys from Dollar General. Students Jaeton Whitaker and Christian Crotts also went out and shopped on their own time and bought more toys. Other students from Dalton’s first-block class picked up toy collection boxes, wrapped the boxes and then delivered them to Virginia Produce on Friday.
“It’s just a really good thing. Shanda Sinnett was the one who really got the ball rolling on the toy program after the death of her grandson and she is still behind the scenes with us working and encouraging and helping the elementary schools. I think she just likes to remind everybody every year it is to take something negative and turn it into a positive,” Dalton said. “I think these students are definitely good at that and they have had fun, too.”
Josh White, a student of Dalton’s, said it feels great to spread the joy at Christmas time and to do something to help others. Jaeton Whitaker said many times people don’t realize how blessed they are.
“All these gifts go to every kid who doesn’t have a present on Christmas,” Whitaker said. “We all have presents we get every year and we have had the opportunity to be fortunate enough to get those presents, but some aren’t and it makes us feel good to be able to help.”
Dalton said Carroll County High School’s FCCLA (Family Career and Community Leaders of America) started taking over the canned food drive portion of the Carroll Christmas Fund several years ago. The drive targets a specific item each week – peanut butter, canned soups, canned vegetables, cereal, spaghetti and noodles, and so on. FCCLA classes at the high school compete to see who can collect the most canned food items.
“And we have been very fortunate this year it has been a pretty heated competition. We’re excited that we are able to give more to Dennis Ward and the Christmas Fund because it is such a great thing and it just seems like every time he needs more, somehow, someway something happens that more comes,” Dalton said. “This is a ton of toys, we are really excited. The food drive is at over 4,000 items, so it has been a great thing.”
Tilda Mullins, an FCCLA instructor at CCHS, said the 4,000-plus canned food items are by far the most the school has ever collected for the Carroll Christmas Fund.
“We have a competition and we have two classes vying for that and then a third class that kind of snuck in as well,” Mullins said. “They are at each other, it is very heated, and the result is an entire room almost full of food.”
A senior at CCHS, Izzy Largen wanted to find a way to help victims of Hurricane Harvey and others that devastated the United States in 2017. She said she began asking around to see if the high school was going to do a food drive. When she found out there wasn’t one, she took matters into her own hands.
“I figured we would but I found out that we actually didn’t have a plan for the people affected by the hurricanes. So I thought, ‘Well, we should do it, so I went and asked my National Honor Society chair, Dr. Kay Schwink, if I could do that, and she said, ‘Sure, do it,’” Largen said.
At that point, Largen said she had to figure a way to get the items collected from the drive to the victims who need them. Soon after, she saw a tractor-trailer at WalMart collecting water from God’s Pit Crew. A local pastor affiliated with the group agreed to take whatever items Largen’s drive collected to wherever they were needed the most.
Largen then had to write a proposal for the drive and had to get it approved by the CCHS faculty counsel. Then she met with Thompson, who was all for moving forward with the idea.
“And then after that it was just a matter of making boxes, and then I made flyers to put around the school and boxes in classrooms and then we started collecting stuff,” Largen said. “We had a goal of 500 items. We actually met that goal and exceeded it. Right now we have a total of 352 toiletries, which is about 100 more than we planned for, and 264 food and water items. I am still not sure where the items will go, but that doesn’t matter to me, as long as it goes to whoever needs it the most.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN