Throughout La Grange School District 102, it’s quite common to see references to kindness and its’ importance, outside the schools and within the building hallways. As the holiday season approaches, spreading kindness toward one another is more important than ever, not only in schools but within the surrounding communities as well. The holiday season serves as one of the biggest areas of needs and resources within non-profit organizations. As a district, D102 frequently partners with organizations to provide aid to those in need, whether it is a coat donation, food donations, or care kits for healthcare heroes.
The District’s Family Liasion, Vanessa Deaton, spoke about the urgency for community members to support their local centers for donations. “In my role, we make sure that our families are taken care of and provided with the resources they need. We reach out to partnerships, administration, staff, and other families that are willing to help to make sure there is more than plenty. Since the pandemic, our families in need have grown significantly, and food pantries have been the saving grace for our families. When we are not in session for school, families have somewhere to go to be able to provide the food they need.”
Before Thanksgiving, a few students from D102 decided to spread kindness among the community by volunteering with the Westchester Food Pantry. Friends Grayson Holt, Alexander Arroyo, and Rylee Hou heard about this volunteer opportunity from one of their parents and decided to take it upon themselves to spread kindness to those in need during Thanksgiving. The Westchester Food Pantry serves as a resource throughout the year for those who are hungry and food insecure. Supported by the generous donations and work of our community – residents, organizations, and businesses – they are able to supplement food needs in our Village and neighboring communities.
Recipients were provided with bags filled with various food options, main food items included turkey breast, ham, and regular turkey, along with a variety of side dishes. Volunteers would then wheel the cart of food to the recipients’ car and students helped load the bags into their car. Throughout their service, the students were able to engage with the people they were helping.
Amy Arroyo said, “It felt great for the students to see the people that they were helping directly. With a lot of events or volunteer opportunities, you don’t often get the chance to interact with the people that are impacted by your donations or services.”
7th grader, Grayson Holt, spoke about how the service impacted him and the lessons he learned throughout the experience. “I learned that I need to get out of my comfort zone,” Holt said, “I really enjoyed the experience, it gave me a really good and uplifting experience. And continued the rest of my day really happy and empowering. Helping others also helps yourself. I feel like helping people is the ultimate form of giving back.”
Alexander Arroyo, 7th grader said, “I learned that I’m grateful for our house, not having to worry about eating at Thanksgiving. It really opened my eyes to what I have.”
The first shift provided over 250-holiday meals given out to family members and anticipated providing just as many meals throughout the remainder of the afternoon.
Grayson’s mom, Akeya Holt said, “I thought it was a great experience as a parent and community member, to know that we live in a community with great need and there is an obligation to get involved and show our students how they can contribute to the community. I have a lot of respect for the food pantry and how they serviced those in need.”
“The pandemic has brought the district more united, in the sense of being empathetic and helping each other out,” Deaton said, “I feel like today we are helping one family because tomorrow that family might be helping me if I’m in need. It’s not just one school, it’s all schools asking, ‘How I can help or support you.’ They aren’t asking if they belong to a certain school, they are asking how we can support all the students in the district.”
The school district is connected to many partnerships throughout the surrounding communities, including West40, which has compiled a list of Food Bank locations throughout the Chicagoland area for all those in need throughout the year. “We try to focus and make sure resources are available when we know there is going to be a break in the school year to make sure families know where to go for resources when school isn’t in session,” Deaton said, “Thankfully the school district has been fully supportive in having lunches being delivered at the school where families can come in throughout the summer to support them with breakfast and lunch. During the winter break, we either give families in need bags of food or provide them with resources through our partnerships.”
As the holiday season gets into full swing, it is important to not just give gifts to those we love but to remember that whatever we can give, even if it is only our time, is one of the highest forms of kindness. Dr. Schumacher said, “It is a wonderful experience for our children to volunteer in their communities. They learn so much about themselves and the world around them by giving of themselves through opportunities such as these. Like Alexander, Rylee, and Grayson share with others how you plan to help those in need because you just may find that your “Kindness is Contagious.”