By Amanda Murphy
BRIGHTON — For Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School, the holiday season meant more than gifts and family celebrations; students came together through two charity drives – and one special event – to spread holiday cheer to the less fortunate.
Throughout November, PECS held its annual canned food drive. The school aimed to collect 2,000 pieces but exceeded it with a total collection of 2,295 cans of food.
“We really try to instill into our students that everyone is not as fortunate as us,” said Michele Thomas, administrative assistant at PECS. “We were on the receiving end of charity at some point.”
Half the collection went to Big Lake Missions Outreach in Okeechobee, an organization that serves lunch to the homeless every day at the First United Methodist Church.
Moore Haven Catholic Church received the other half of donations for their food pantry.
PECS has held the drive for five years and each year receives an outpouring of donations, Thomas said.
In its first year, the school collected 3,500 cans.
“There’s a lot of teachable moments,” Thomas said. “Not everyone can go to the refrigerator and pantry and find food in there. Some children don’t know when the next meal is going to come.”
In December, PECS students continued to give through a toy drive. The school partnered with Real Life Children’s Ranch, an organization that provides a loving, Christian environment for abused or abandoned children, to fulfill the wish lists of 40 children at five different group homes. Each child made five wishes and PECS divided them among the different classrooms. Students donated toys to make the wish lists a reality.
“My desk was loaded with gifts,” Thomas said. “You could barely see my desk or get into my office.”
The gifts were delivered to the group homes for the children to open on Christmas morning.
To dive a little deeper into the giving spirit, PECS also invited the children of Real Life Children’s Ranch to the school for a culture day. PECS Student Council and Safety Patrol students helped with the after-school event and mingled with the visiting children on the playground, while Culture staff cooked Indian tacos.
Thomas said the event not only allowed students to meet the kids but also reminded them of all their blessings. She said the students were great hosts and wanted to keep in touch as pen pals.
“It was a real eye opener for our kids on a much bigger level,” she said.
Seminole Police Officer David Lee dressed as Santa Claus and handed each child a goodie bag filled with candy, small toys and a beaded Seminole necklace.
Thomas felt touched when a little girl said, “This is the best night ever.”