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School's store gives students chance to shop for loved ones

December 18, 2004|BY SCOTT BUTKI

Editor's note: This series over the 12 days before Christmas recognizes those individuals and groups that make the holidays better for others.




scottb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Sherri Betts, a volunteer at Fountaindale Elementary School, made holiday shopping a bit easier for students this year by organizing a holiday gift store just for them.

Betts, 31, of Hagerstown, has been a volunteer at the school for three years, gradually moving from assisting in her daughter's class to running the school store to becoming vice president of the school's Parent Teacher Association.

This year, she asked if school employees at the school were interested in having a holiday store where students can purchase gifts for family members, she said. Letters about the store were sent to all of the students' parents, she said. A second letter listed some of the items that would be on sale and asked parents to put money in an envelope for their children to spend at the store.

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While they expected students to have a total of about $1,500 to spend, students at the school, with an enrollment of 435, brought $3,000, she said.

The store was only open for purchases the week before Thanksgiving because school officials did not know what to expect.

As a result, some items - such as tool sets, popular with students wanting to buy them for males in their life - quickly sold out, she said. Other popular items included coffee mugs etched with "I love Mom."

Some students had a learning experience as they realized that while they had money, they should not spend on themselves, but rather buy items for other people, Betts said.

The items were sold at a 10 percent markup, which allowed the school to give presents to 18 children who didn't have money to shop in the store, Betts said. The 18 students - about three from each grade level - were selected by the teachers, she said.

The students were handed bags with presents preselected for their relatives, she said.

One girl said, "This says 'Mom'" and asked if that meant it was a present for her own mother. Told it was, she asked, "Are these for me to give?"

"They were so excited," Betts said. "That was incredible. That alone was worth all the effort."

Before the week was over, students already were talking about how they can't wait to see the store next year, she said. Students interviewed after their purchases at the store praised the project.

"It is really nice," said Lancet Threewitts, 11, a fifth-grade student. She likes being able to buy items for her family without them seeing what she was buying, she said.

Brynne Kirsch, 10, a fifth-grader, said she likes it because it means "your parents don't have to take you out."

Betts said she was not surprised by the students' reactions.

When she grew up in northeast Ohio, her elementary school had a holiday store, she said. Her mother still has a bell and a ceramic robin she bought her while at that school.

"It was a great feeling," Betts said. "I felt so proud to be able to do it by myself. It was a great achievement."

Sunday: Nancy Crampton, Faith Christian Fellowship of Halfway

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