The weather outside may get frightful at times, but in Frisco ISD, the warm hearts of volunteers help keep winter’s chill away for students in need.
Supporters of the annual Small World Angel Program work hard to ensure that more than 1,200 angels will receive much-needed items ranging from socks to jackets, as well as perhaps a toy or bike, this year.
The District meets the needs of these angels by working with longtime partner, With Love It’s a Small World, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping low-income students throughout the year and supporting students with college scholarships. The Angel Program targets students below the age of 15.
During the fall, campus counselors and FISD staff work to identify qualified families for the Angel Program. Proof of income and information about the family’s needs are verified. Then lists of angels and their needs and wishes are sent to campuses so that students and teachers may adopt an angel. Faithful volunteers commit two and a half weeks in December to sort and organize the items at the distribution center. They say they come back year after year because they love the program and they love the angels.
“We couldn’t do it without the volunteers and the counselors,” said Randi Baker, event specialist for Frisco ISD and the District’s liaison with Small World.
School counselors identify students in need, but they also educate about compassion and empathy, as well as the importance of generosity and giving back to the community.
One of those counselors, Tiffany Ragland of Purefoy Elementary, directed enthusiastic fifth grade volunteers as they helped load class donations for more than 50 angels onto a truck on a recent cold, windy morning. She gathered them together after they had loaded bags and bikes on the truck to thank them for their help, but also to tell them she expects them to continue to support helping others when they are at Griffin Middle School next year.
“Don’t forget about this,” told them.
A miniature “North Pole” is set up within an FISD facility each year where the volunteers gather to “check their lists twice” and make sure each angel receives some of the items on their list – if not all. Small World volunteers stock the center with beverages and snacks to keep the volunteers going and the entire process is completed in a matter of weeks. Longtime partner Southwest Freight Trucking Company donates the trucks and drivers for two days to pick up donations from the campuses. The company also provides seven empty trailers for three weeks for bike storage. The final part of the process involves distribution. Parents are invited to come to the facility to pick up their family’s items on specific days. This year’s pick-up dates are December 16 and 17.
The Angel Program is truly a community and District effort, Baker said, noting that no one group makes the program happen – it takes many contacts and an army of FISD staff, students, parents and volunteers to reach students who may not have basic clothing needs met or who may need a bike to get to school on time.
“Clothe-A-Child is donating $6,550 worth of Kohl’s cash to Small World for us to spend on angel gifts this year,” Baker said. “They did this last year as well and it is a tremendous help in that we can buy the items that we never get enough of, especially for our teenagers. It will also allow us to buy items for students who are older than the cutoff age of 15 but are classified as homeless. We don’t adopt these students out to sponsors but will take care of them with extra donations.”
Small World also has a relationship with several other businesses and organizations that put up a tree to collect donations, Baker said. Those partners include:
- YMCA (Plano and Frisco locations)
- Stonebriar Country Club Ladies Golf Club
- RBC Dain Rauscher
- Fidelity Investment Services
- North Central Ford
In addition to the annual Angel Program, individual campuses, classes and campus organizations practice generosity and benevolence for a wide variety of causes. Giving at FISD is a year-round event, but the holidays seem to inspire many great ideas. Just a few include:
Third and fifth grade students at Sparks Elementary recently donated blankets to Prairie Estates, a senior living facility. It was part of the school’s character education curriculum which focuses on being a superhero. Every superhero understands service to others.
Sonntag Elementary students conducted a toy drive entitled Luke’s Toys for Joy. The students collected toys at the instigation of their classmate, who has been in treatment at Scottish Rite for Children since he was a baby. He wanted to give back to the hospital that has done so much for him and invited his school to join him. A huge collection of toys filled the Sonntag stage at the end of the toy drive.
At Liberty High School, students inspired by a classroom lesson on giving brought in more than $1,700 worth of gift cards to assist with the Angel Program and more than $2,000 to provide 40 “welcome totes” for new residents at The Samaritan Inn in McKinney. Students also donated pillows, blankets, sheets and toiletry items to complete another 27 totes.
Riddle Elementary decided to raise funds and donate bikes for the Angel Program this year, instead of adopting specific angels. The school-wide program collected more than 50 bikes and helmets.
Giving on a big scale can be a difficult concept for young students. Lauren Harvey, kindergarten teacher at Riddle, incorporated the concept into her curriculum with great results.
“During our Monday morning OLWEUS class meeting, we read Duck On a Bike by David Shannon, making lots of great text-to-self connections,” Harvey explained. “After we completed the story, we talked about some children in our community who may not have a bike now and may never, ever have the opportunity to have or ride a bike. We brainstormed ideas of how we could help, as Mrs. Harvey’s Lovebugs are always helpers. We decided to ask for ‘Bucks for Bikes,’ telling the students they may simply bring in one dollar or coins to help fund a bike that we could donate as a class.”
Harvey’s class put their donations in a donation jar so they could see their results and collected enough money to purchase two bikes.
“I think it helped break-down this huge (yet very important!) idea/project for my kindergarteners, giving them some understanding and a way to actively participate and feel good about doing so,” Harvey wrote.
All this giving will continue even after the holidays. Throughout FISD, someone is always recycling, holding a change or food drive, donating coats and shoes, all in an effort to give back to the community and the world.
It is the hope of FISD faculty and staff that each person involved in the Angel Program will learn a lesson of compassion and giving that lasts a lifetime.