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Martial arts instructor wants students to earn black belt in service

December 18, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- Black belt Jimmy Smith said he wants his young students to learn the importance of community service.

Since Smith opened Mr. Jimmy's White Tiger Martial Arts in Hagerstown last August, the students in his after-school program have been doing everything from collecting food for the needy to raising money for breast cancer awareness programs.

The after-school program, which is held in the late afternoon and made up of school-age children, adopted two families for Christmas earlier this month.

Smith said those families will receive food, clothing and toys.

"Martial arts is not all about fighting," Smith said. "It's a good opportunity to teach the kids to help others."

Marcia Watters, an instructor at the martial arts studio, said the adults try to make serving the community fun for the children by holding a pizza party for the belt-level that raises the most each month for charity.

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About 50 children participate in the after-school program, said Hope Covert, program director. She said she asks the students what they want to do, "and they just do it."

The children already have decided, for example, that next month they will collect blankets and coats for the homeless.

Covert said she did not have a lot while she was growing up, and wants to teach her students to appreciate all that they have.

"I think it's important to teach these kids that not everyone has what you do," she said.

Eleven-year-olds Mackala Thompson and Shianne Anders said it makes them happy to help raise food, clothing and toys for the needy.

Mackala said she donated some of her old toys to help bolster the collection.

"They'll actually get to have something," she said.

Shianne said she participated in an effort last month to collect more than 580 pounds of food.

"It makes me feel like a better person because I wouldn't want to be starving for Thanksgiving," she said.

Many of the children get help from their parents during the charitable drives.

Chad Sweigert, who studies martial arts at Mr. Jimmy's with his 9-year-old son, Luke, said he feels fortunate to be in a position to help.

As district manager for GAP Inc., Sweigert said he was able to get Old Navy to donate clothes for children.

"It's obviously the right thing to do -- especially in these times," Sweigert said. "I'm thankful that I'm fortunate enough to have a good job and a stable environment. I just like to contribute when I can."

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