To someone who didn't know what was going on, it looked like chaos. In many ways, it was. The kick-off event of the final day of school for the month of December at Chisholm Middle School looked like a disorganized parade.
And it was a parade. Students had made Christmas themed posters with holes for their faces, and as groups paraded around the gymnasium one group performed the signature dance from "A Charlie Brown Christmas" at center court.
There was excitement and voices filling the air as they prepared for the main event of the day —an all-day service project on the last day of school before Christmas.
"Christmas is usually a time to get gifts," said Bobbi Jo Grieb, principal at Chisholm Middle School. "We wanted them to understand what it feels like to give."
Projects for the day included making dog treats for Caring Hands Humane Society, singing at nursing homes, making cards for Meals on Wheels recipients, making place settings for the homeless shelter holiday dinner and making goodie trays for first responders.
"We are going to have a fun day of service today," said teacher Cindy Rambo. "What we need to remember today is that small acts change the world."
After the morning assembly, most students went to their classrooms to work on projects. Music groups were headed out on location at nursing homes.
"This is the first time we have ever done this," said teacher Susan Wright. "There were moments in the past few days that I asked 'why are we doing this?' Then I remembered small acts change the world. It is not perfectly smooth, and not free of chaos. But it is perfectly, I hope, full of love, energy, kindness and goodness that (students) can spread."
Organizations helped by the projects included Presbyterian Manor, Kansas Christian Home, Asbury Park, Mennonite Central Committee, Trinity Heights Respite Care, Slate Creek Elementary, Victory in the Valley, New Hope Shelter, Meals on Wheels, Newton City Offices, Casa: A Voice for Children, Scates (IDD), Caring Hands, Safe Hope, Newton Fire/EMS and the Newton Police Department.
"We wanted to give kids a taste for serving their community," Grieb said."We have needs right here locally."
The school leadership group began talking about the day of service about a year ago. The desire was to start a communtywide service project, and possibly do an act of international service as well.
The project was funded in part by a donor of Harvey County United Way and from funds generated by a community service club fund at the school.
"I see a lot of caring in this room." said Tina Payne, director of the United Way during the morning assembly. "... We beleive you are never too young to start volunteering. You are never too young to start giving back to your community."