“We have to be grateful for all we have and share,” said seventh-grader Silas Madrigal.
Silas is among dozens who responded generously to the school’s latest Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO) charity effort – the PECS Jacket Drive. Led by reading teacher Sarah Williams and classroom assistant Brandi Johns, the effort has so far amassed about 125 hoodies, fleece, sport and sweater jackets.
Williams said she was prompted to launch the charity after hearing stories from teachers of less fortunate schools who revealed that they often spent their own money to provide jackets and coats to underprivileged students. Most of the children come from families of migrant workers.
“When we talked to our students about it, it dawned on them that poor children don’t only need the jackets during the day, but at night, too, even when they sleep,” Williams said. “Families that don’t have money for jackets probably don’t have money for heat.”
All the jackets, from tiny toddler sizes to extra-large adult sizes, will be laundered, folded and placed neatly in boxes before being delivered in November to teachers at needy schools for distribution as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, November at PECS will be dedicated to collecting food for poor families in Okeechobee and Glades counties.
Last year the PTSO donated 2,000 canned goods that went to food pantries and other organizations that feed the hungry.
PECS guidance counselor Jeanine Gran said students and parents continue showing generosity through Christmas when they donate gifts to Real Life Children’s Ranch, a residential group home for about 40 children in Okeechobee.
“Our families always make us proud,” Gran said.
Silas said helping with the jacket drive was easy. He cleaned out closets and drawers to gather 15 jackets that formerly belonged to him and to his sister Alyssa Madrigal.
“I’m just hoping the other children stay warm. I didn’t have to think hard about it; I still have plenty of jackets at home and it makes me happy to help,” Silas said.