Red Bag Project helps Fort Mill families at Christmas

jmarks@fortmilltimes.comDecember 12, 2013 

Volunteer Paulette Manis works with second-graders in Gretchen Lyons’s class at Springfield Elementary School Wednesday on the Red Bag Project Wednesday.

JOHN MARKS — jmarks@fortmilltimes.com

— Big red sacks of wrapped presents filled Springfield Elementary School, but they weren’t for the students.

At least not the way most Christmas presents are.

The gift of Red Bag Project is in teaching the value of giving, organizers say, rather than receiving. Melissa Cota brought the idea with her from Missouri. The mom of a seventh- and fourth-grader is part of the parent-teacher group at Springfield. Three years ago the group needed a project. The idea took.

In its third year here, every class at the school sponsored a child through Red Bag Project to help 35 children in 16 families.

Throughout November students brought in money. They were asked to do extra chores at home to earn it, but some were creative.

“Some even sent in their tooth fairy money,” Cota said.

Sydney Sain and Heidi Williams are fifth-graders who read off wish lists not unlike their own – clothes, shoes, some toys. All from children in Fort Mill, provided by the Fort Mill Care Center. They were surprised at how many gifts arrived even after working hard to raise money for them.

“We did chores,” Sydney said. “Me and my family, when we find money in the house or wherever we have a giant coin jar. They wanted me to take it.”

Working for the money they’d then give away made the project personal, students and staff said.

“It was a good way to raise money for people who don’t have as much as we do,” Heidi said.

About 20 parent volunteers took the more than $5,200 and shopped. They spent $150 per child and and Wednesday brought gifts into classrooms for students to wrap. Shoppers picked out the one item listed as a “wish” for each child, and had a little left for other gifts.

“These needs are very basic,” Cota said. “Most need warms clothes and shoes.”

Peter Olinger, principal at Springfield, has his own child who at age 4 is bombarded with sale papers and gift ideas. His students see the same things. Olinger hopes the Red Bag Project offers some perspective this time of year.

“This is just about giving back,” he said. “The emphasis is really on these kids.”

Click here and here to watch videos from the project.

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