On the afternoon of March 20, Washington Open Elementary School’s cafeteria was a busy place to be during the school’s first Community Service Fair. At one table, children designed bookmarks to accompany book donations for Books Between Kids, a Texas-based non-profit organization. At another table, children decorated gift bags for the holiday season to accompany donations from a Giving Tree Program to assist families throughout the Santa Clara Unified School District. More projects were under way at other tables.
“The purpose of the Community Service Fair is to show our kids and our families that we have this amazing ability to reach outside our school community and do great things and do acts of kindness for other people and non-profit organizations,” said Elisha Gargiulo, President of the Washington Open Parent Faculty Group. “I think it’s an important value to instill in our kids that they have the ability to do kind things for others. Their acts of kindness make a difference, whether they are small or large.”
A number of non-profit organizations benefited from the efforts of the school community. Also, students got a sense of satisfaction about the work they did to serve others.
Just ask Ellie Kisely, 9, who created toys for felines in need.
“I took toilet paper rolls, cut them in circles and I hot glued them together to make cardboard balls for cats for the Humane Society of Silicon Valley and for cats who don’t have homes,” Kisely said. “There was another activity where I [made a different toy] for cats to chase. It was fun to make these things and it felt good to help the Humane Society and homeless cats, who don’t have a lot of things to play with. I know my cat would be bored if she didn’t have toys to play with. So I want to give other cats the opportunity to have toys.”
Kristin Jantzen, a parent volunteer at the event, helped run a number of work stations.
“I was helping to put together Jenga sets and an art project for StandUp for Kids, which is a center for homeless teens,” Jantzen said. “The art project was a big heart where kids got to come and put their fingerprints into a heart. It’s an art piece that Washington Open is giving to StandUp for Kids to decorate their space.
“We had wood blocks that we were sanding down to make a giant Jenga set for the teens,” Jantzen continued. “Our kids put on gloves and sanded down the rough edges and splinters with sand paper. We filled up a giant plastic tub with the Jenga blocks. Something neat that I saw at the sanding table was that the older kids — the fourth and fifth-graders — were working together to help the younger kids sand the blocks. The blocks will build a three-foot tower.”
On a wall in the cafeteria was a cutout of a tree trunk with branches and handmade leaves spread out through the tree. Words and messages promoting kindness filled the leaves.
“The tree is for kids to recognize the random acts of kindness they can do every day.” said Gargiulo.