By DENISE DICK
Teachers, students and parents from Mollie Kessler School strolled into the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley loaded down with bags and boxes of gifts.
“They’re for the kids and the grown-ups at the Rescue Mission,” said Ah’niyah Catrell, 8, a third-grader at Mollie Kessler.
The loot included “toys, candy, books, clothes and shoes,” Ah’niyah said. “I hope it helps them to be happy.”
Last year, students in Courtney Cruz’s class at the school picked homelessness as an issue on which they wanted to focus to help the community.
“I called the Rescue Mission, and they said they had 19 kids here,” Cruz said. “Of course, my students said, ‘We have to help them.’”
She sent a letter out to the school staff and parents asking for donations.
“Within three days, I had volunteers for all 19 kids,” Cruz said.
Donations included money, new clothes and toys, and MP3 players. Boardman dentist Thomas Davison donated toothbrushes and toothpaste for all 19 children, and Salem Community Hospital’s surgery department also contributed to the effort.
The school used $45 from a parent donation to buy new scholastic books. After buying gifts, Cruz’s class had $68 left over. Of that, $40 will go toward Christmas dinners for children at the mission. The remainder will be placed in a Salvation Army kettle.
As part of the project, Cruz’s class planned to ring the bell for the Salvation Army at the Giant Eagle in Canfield.
Second-grader Maia Hatala, 8, said the class wanted to help other people at Christmas.
“Christmas is about love and caring,” she said.
They wanted to help kids who didn’t have much for the holiday, Maia said.
“For the 4-year-old, we got a horse,” she said. “I think she likes horses.”
Cruz’s class picked two children, a boy and a girl, for whom to buy.
“For the boy — he’s 6 — we got Hot Wheels,” Maia said.
Third-grader Jashua Hargrove, 8, hopes his school’s contributions brighten Christmas for the children and their families.
“I hope they’re excited,” he said. “I hope they go like this, ‘Ahhh,’” he said, throwing his hands up alongside his face. “That would make me laugh.”