By Debbie Adams
The students and staff at William Byrd Middle School have demonstrated their commitment to community service by collecting 1,145 food and clothing items for families in need this holiday season.
According to guidance counselor Lubeth Jones, who coordinated the project at WBMS along with teachers Ashley Stultz and Jamie Nichols, the Community Christmas Store, which serves the entire valley, reached out to the school to see if the students would be interested in helping collect food and warm clothing to help stock its shelves for the holidays. The organization plans to feed about 450 families with donations from WBMS and other Roanoke County schools.
Jones asked for staff volunteers to help with the food drive—Stultz and Nichols stepped up, and also volunteered their teams of students to help with counting, labeling, sorting, packing, and record-keeping of the donated items, and filling in names on raffle tickets during daily Team Time. (Stultz teaches seventh grade and Jones teaches eighth.)
Organizers came up with some enticements to encourage students to participate more fully in the food drive: students would be competing against staff to see who could bring in the most items (students brought food gifts; staff brought in hats, socks, and gloves), plus students would be able to “pie” five staff members who received the most votes in the competition.
Seventeen staff members agreed to join the competition and participate in the pie contest “for a good cause”; eight more said they would be pie targets if needed.
Students who brought in food items received a ticket for each item, which they could then place in an envelope for the staff member they wish to “pie.” Names will be drawn from the envelopes after the Thanksgiving holiday to see who gets to throw pies at the top five winners among Assistant Principal John Eggleston, and teachers Jamie Nichols, Bill Pratt, Denise Aspell, and Scott Whitehead. Eggleston seemed to be in the lead until the final day, when a huge donation changed the outcome, putting Whitehead ahead by three items.
Eighth grader Lillian Amaya’ Dogan was determined that Whitehead would be among the top five, bringing in a donation herself of $100 for the purchase of canned goods and about 75 more canned food items at the last minute—all going toward his total. He had challenged his students to excel in the competition, promising to match their donations. He kept his part of the bargain, donating $100 so far to match Lillian’s.
“We are so proud of her efforts,” said Jones. She also noted that the Community Christmas Store liaison was “thrilled with the efforts of the William Byrd students.”
Different grade levels were given different food lists to fill. Sixth graders were asked to bring in brownie mix, cake mixes and icing, and soup. Seventh graders were assigned macaroni and cheese, soup, and pancake syrup and mix. Eighth graders were tasked with bringing in canned fruits, vegetables, meats, and beans. The food drive project took place over a three-week period, ending on November 19.
Eggleston thanked the students and staff who contributed so generously, saying, “Through your efforts lots of families will be provided the opportunity to have a good Thanksgiving meal, something that most of us take for granted.”
He commented that the school and school system have placed a special emphasis on diversity and meeting the needs of diverse groups this school year. This is another project which brings that topic to the forefront.
Seventh grade students on Ashley Stultz’s Team who put so much work into the project include: Jayden Hardy Lanaiya Hardy, Caiden Harnish, Aniyah Harper, Jeremiah Harper, Brihanna Harris, Bryson Harris, Emmalee Harris, London Hartman, Sarah Heitz, Braedyn Henritze, Sophie Hoagland, Dorian Hollis, and Angel Marchese, III.
Eighth graders on Jamie Nichols’ Team include: Jeremy Abbott, Bryson Albert, Joshua Allen, Blake Austin, Ceiliann Baldwin, Aiden Barton, Ashleigh Barton, Titus Beatty, Braeden Booth, Kassie Brant, Jacob Smith, Whitney Werle, Micah Wheeler, Nathanial Whitney, and Kaleb Wooldridge.