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Contests teach Outlook students about giving

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Lisa Daniel loads the Sunnyside's Promise Wagon with toys purchased with money collected during the Outlook Elementary School penny drive.

OUTLOOK - To say the students at Outlook Elementary School are generous would be an understatement.

For the past few weeks, students have been donating canned food items and money for two separate, but equally as important drives to benefit less fortunate people in the Sunnyside area.

Cathy Mears, Outlook principal, said the goal for the canned food drive was 4,000 items.

Students brought in more than 4,600 items - 4,683 items, to be exact.

"We've done something good for the community," Mears said. "That's what we're doing here."

The items will be distributed between three food banks in the Sunnyside area. Those food banks are the Sunnyside Ministerial Association, St. Vincet dePaul and the Seventh Day Adventist food banks.

That means each bank will receive 1,546 items.

While the kids got to experience the reward of knowing they're helping others who may not have what they do, they did also receive a reward for their efforts.

The top four classes each got to choose a staff member to have their hair sprayed different colors.

The kindergarten class that won picked Mears, of course.

Brandi Honey-Porter's class topped the 33 classes at the school, Mears said. Her class brought in more than 800 items, Mears said.

Mears said the canned food drive has been an ongoing program at Outlook for the past 20 years. She said she thinks the school has donated about 70,000 items to food banks since the program began two decades ago.

In addition to the canned food drive, students brought their pennies and whatever other money they wanted to bring to help buy toys for less fortunate kids in the area.

Mears said the penny drive has been going on for about 10 years, and is put on by the Outlook Booster Club.

Tony Castillo, a volunteer firefighter with the Sunnyside Fire Department, said every year the department adopts 20 families and money is pooled to help buy food for the needy families.

The money raised by the school helps to buy presents for each member of those 20 families.

"To see kids worried about another kid who doesn't have a toy, it's heart warming," Castillo said.

Castillo, who is also a teacher at United Methodist Pre-school, said he thinks the program helps teach kids how to give rather than think only of themselves.

"You can't really learn about giving, you have to see it," Castillo said. "For this to be going on at school, it's great."

Castillo said the fire department will personally donate all the food and toys to each of the 20 families they've adopted. If anything is left over, they'll take it and try to find other needy families.

Castillo and fellow firefighter Bill Harris collected the toys from students following an assembly Tuesday afternoon in the Outlook Elementary gym, which sent kids off to Christmas break singing holiday songs and having fun.

The toys were then loaded into the Sunnyside's Promise wagon.

Mears said the use of the wagon is symbolic of the connection between the school and Sunnyside's Promise.

"We wanted to show the tie-in," Mears said, "that we're working together as a team. These kids will not forget this. It's just a tremendously positive effort."

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