Students and staff members at Westbrook Elementary believe in service to their city, and they prefer to show this to people rather than simply tell them about it.
That’s why the school has created the Westbrook Elementary Community Club. The club, organized by parents, wanted to help spread good in the community.
“We wanted to do an event to get people in the building and get people together,” Westbrook Elementary Principal Tyler Hottovy says. “From there, we started talking about, instead of doing a fundraiser, how can we make it service-oriented? I had heard from church [St. Thomas Lutheran] that one of the biggest things homeless shelters need is socks.”
That motivated the group to hold a dance—specifically, a sock hop—and bake sale in December. They collected socks and money to donate to the Open Door Mission, a homeless shelter in Omaha.
Shauna Nemetz, V.P. of the community club, says, “People dropped socks off as they entered, and we decorated and made a playlist. The kids had a ball dancing and running around.”
The Westbrook Elementary Community Club put together the event in about a month. They helped spread the word about the sock hop and came up with creative ideas to get students excited about the event, such as purchasing glow sticks and beach balls for all who attended to enjoy.
“One of the things I love about our community club is we do a lot of fundraising for our school,” Hottovy says. “We have a small but dedicated community club and I just couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Westbrook Elementary stresses the importance of empathy and respect in their halls. Hottovy says the school believes students are affected by the behavior of their educators, so the staff works every day to set an example.
“The more I started to research it, the more I realized how difficult it is to teach someone to be respectful,” Hottovy says. “It’s a lot easier and has a bigger impact to teach empathy and service to others, and respect kind of comes with that. We have been trying to do a lot more of that this year and model that for the kids as well.”
A bin was set up at the door the night of the sock hop and families were encouraged to give what they could, but also were told to take socks from the bin if they were in need. The evening generated 320 pairs of socks along with more than $100 in monetary donations, which were subsequently sent to the Open Door Mission.
This District 66 school didn’t stop their philanthropic tendencies at the sock drive. Teachers also stayed late one night in December and made fleece blankets that were donated to Project Harmony, a nonprofit with a goal of ending child abuse and neglect.
“We were able to show the kids, and explain what we were doing, and it turned into another opportunity to model what we want to see in our kids,” Hottovy says.
Westbrook Elementary is a school with a high rate of poverty, about two-thirds of the students are given free or reduced-priced lunches, but that doesn’t stop them from giving in other ways. The school participated in a “Kindness Challenge” that consisted of each student performing a different act of kindness each day. Positive notes were written and put in lockers, patience was exhibited, and hands of friendship were extended.
Hottovy says Westbrook will put on their second annual sock hop next year and hopes to surpass this year’s amount of socks donated.
This article was printed in the 2019 Summer Camp Edition of Family Guide. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.