Scenic sharing holiday cheer
CENTRAL POINT — Scenic Middle School teacher Chris Schmerbach had good reason to give two of his students, Brooklyn Johnson and Madison Love, a high five on a cold and slushy Wednesday afternoon.
The two eighth-graders had just spearheaded a project that saw their peers donate 500 toys to Court Appointed Special Advocates of Jackson County. CASA is a nonprofit that trains volunteers to “act as independent eyes and ears of the court,” advocating for children in the custody of DHS, according the organization’s website.
After the toys had been gathered up and counted Wednesday outside Scenic, officers with the city’s police department showed up in their squad cars to transport the gifts to CASA.
Reflecting on her work, Johnson credited her peers.
“I feel good,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to see how your project comes together after everyone puts in their hand and helps.”
Love responded by saying she agreed with Johnson the project was a rewarding one.
“Brooklyn and I both put in a lot of work to come up with the idea and get the emails sent out,” Love said. “Then, everybody else in the leadership classes executed it — and I think it was executed very well. There were so many toys.”
Johnson and Love explained the idea came about after doing a Google search for different kinds of donation events. The idea of a toy drive appealed to them the most, because both of the young women have parents who are supportive of charitable giving during the holiday season.
The question then became which organization would benefit. With it being mid-November and the holidays fast approaching, Johnson thought of CASA. She could vividly recall her younger years, being with her mom at work and seeing a Christmas tree there that allowed the nonprofit to take holiday gift requests from families.
With that familiarity, Johnson took the lead on communicating with CASA throughout her own toy drive. Schmerbach noted some of the other nuances in making the effort successful, saying he split his seventh- and eighth-grade leadership classes into “subcommittees” to work on different aspects of the toy drive.
“There was obviously a lot that went into it,” Schmerbach said. “The students did a really nice job in making this all happen and getting the word out, creating some hype or excitement around the school to bring in toys.”
Scenic Principal Brad Eaton spoke to that point and praised Johnson and Love for their efforts.
“This is a great example of student leadership,” he said. “Our whole school got on board. … I think some of our students had asked their parents to not get them anything so they could get toys and bring them here.”
Eaton noted how there was competition between first period classes to get the most toys.
“A little motivation, yeah,” he said. “Regardless of the competition, there was just a lot of excitement about getting toys here.”
The toy drive is a similar effort to the “food baskets” the schools make every year for families.
“This (the toy drive) is really cool, and hopefully the student leadership wants to keep doing this every year,” Eaton said. “If we’re able to give a child a special Christmas gift they wouldn’t normally get, I think that’s about as good as it gets.”
Jennifer Mylenek, executive director at CASA of Jackson County, remembered speaking over the phone with Johnson, who informed her of the toy drive idea.
“We said, ‘Yeah! Let’s do it,’” Mylenek said. “It really speaks to her leadership and compassion. We’re just grateful she had the foresight to think about our kids this time of year and want to help them. I think it’s amazing.”
Mylenek added, “students who take on these kinds of projects really, truly stand out.”
Central Point police Capt. Scott Logue was humble when asked about his department’s involvement in the toy drive.
“I don’t want to try to sound like Central Point’s trying to take any credit at all — we’re just helping out something good that has happened in the community,” he said.
Mylenek predicted that the families CASA works with will be grateful for Scenic’s donations.
“This is really meaningful to them,” she said. “Often, the children we’re serving in the child welfare system ... don’t even have pajamas — let alone a special gift at the holidays. So this is one small thing to help normalize their situation this time of year.”
Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.