FORT MILL — Springfield Elementary School parent and volunteer Susan Brackett rolls a cart filled with Christmas wrapping paper down the hallway at the school. As she passes students in the hallway, she asks them, “Have you wrapped gifts yet this week?”
Some students see her coming and get excited to tell her about their wrapping experience.
“We wrapped gifts yesterday!” said one student.
The halls of Springfield Elementary School are filled with Christmas spirit these days, as each class finishing wrapping gifts for the Red Bag Program. The Red Bag Program was started more than 25 years ago by a social worker in Kansas City who recruited businesses and schools to help donate to needy families, then placed the gifts in signature red bags.
At Springfield Elementary, the program encourages students to raise money and donate it to buy Christmas presents for needy children.
After the money is collected, volunteer shoppers buy the gifts and bring them to the school, where students wrap them and place them in the red bags.
This year, Springfield Elementary School raised $4,620, enough to buy Christmas gifts for 33 children identified by the Fort Mill Care Center and a counselor at a rural school in York. This is the second year the school has sponsored the program. Last year, they raised $4,000.
The Red Bag Program is well suited for elementary school children, said Principal Peter Olinger, because it allows them to see the project through from the beginning to the end – from fundraising to gift wrapping. And while it isn’t necessarily one of the three ‘R’s, it’s certainly a learning experience for the students, he said.
“You’re able to work towards providing other kids an opportunity they wouldn’t have, to think beyond yourself and your own environment,” Olinger said.
Ryan Roberts, a third grader, dug money out of his savings to contribute to the Red Bag Program. He’s been saving his money for a Beyblade Arena toy for a few months but when he heard about the Red Bag program at school, he dug into his savings to help out people who don’t have quite as much as he does.
“My Paw-Paw is a preacher and they go to homes and help and I thought I could help people like Paw-Paw,” Roberts said.
Roberts gave even more than his savings. When he heard that the child his class adopted wanted Carolina Panthers gear, Roberts donated a Carolina Panthers jersey that he had.
“He likes Panthers, so I brought it for him,” Roberts said. “It feels awesome to help.”
In Phyliss Faircloth’s classroom, students raised money for a child who loves the Green Bay Packers. On his wish list were necessities – socks and underwear – and anything with the Packers’ logo.
Faircloth found a Green Bay Packers jersey, toboggan and lanyard for him, along with the necessities and a few other items.
The class spent a few minutes last week wrapping each gift. Some of the students used too much tape and many wanted to add more than one bow. All of them smiled as they wrapped, and they all lit up when they talked about how excited the Packers fan would be on Christmas morning.
“Wrapping them is as much fun as opening presents,” said Christopher Melchor.
Faircloth has a small class, so it’s harder for her students to raise as much as other classrooms do. Faircloth wouldn’t let her adopted family go without, though. Faircloth, a teacher for 39 years, did what teachers do throughout the year and dug into her own pocketbook.
“It’s important. Those less fortunate, they need help and if I can help one child have a merry Christmas, I’m happy,” she said.