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Learning the value of giving

Burgess students help make Christmas merrier for area children in need

Sandy and Geoff Earls, rear, stopped by Burgess Elementary School to thank Santa’s shopping helpers Marie Fedor and Connor Smith, who purchased gifts for less fortunate kids. Sandy Earle is a member of the Department of Children and Families, and Geoff helped start the gift program in the 1970s when he taught at Burgess. Kevin Flanders. (click for larger version)
December 22, 2010
STURBRIDGE — Visitors to Burgess Elementary School on Tuesday afternoon might have been excused for mistaking the school for the shipping floor of Santa's North Pole toy factory.

Students and staff members have spent the last month participating in several donation initiatives to assist less fortunate families during the holiday season, and their efforts demonstrate that it doesn't require the ownership of reindeer and a sleigh for someone to make a child happy on Christmas day.

Inside Maureen McKeon's fifth-grade classroom, students celebrated the culmination of the fifth-grade Christmas swag donation initiative. Students in all six fifth-grade classrooms made and sold evergreen swags earlier this month, using the profits to purchase Christmas gifts for foster children throughout central Massachusetts.

Back in November, a list of unnamed children's ages and interests was provided for each class by the Department of Children and Families Central Suburban office based in Whitinsville, and two members of the individual classes purchased the gifts based on the information on the lists and brought them to school unwrapped. Once the gifts arrived, the other students helped wrap them in preparation for delivery to the intended recipients.

"My classroom wound up making $250, and the six classes combined to raise over $1,200 to buy gifts," McKeon said.

On Tuesday afternoon, McKeon's class was paid a visit by two members of the Department of Children and Families, who will deliver all of the gifts to children on Friday. Also, Geoff Earls, the man who initially began the fifth-grade ritual of selling wreaths and swags back in the 1970's when he was a teacher at Burgess, visited the school to congratulate the students on their efforts.

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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