The Early Learning students sat on the stepped risers of the music room waiting for a special guest. Some children in the front row proudly cradled containers with pop tabs they had collected throughout the year. A Golden Retriever-Labrador mix was led into the music room to excited gasps
Reed, the facility dog at the Ronald McDonald House of Jacksonville, was a little shy from all of the excited students, but he summoned the courage to perform some of his tricks. Reed and his handler, Shelli Martin, had dropped by the JCDS campus to collect the pop tabs.
Ms. Martin, who is the Family Operations Manager at the Ronald McDonald House, of Jacksonville explained to the assembled students how the collection of the pop tabs helps the parents of sick children who stay at the facility. After the pop tabs have been retrieved, they are taken for recycling at the aluminum plant, which pays for them. The funds raised through the sale of the pop tabs are used to help pay for the Ronald McDonald House’s electricity bill. This helps take care of the 40 or so families at the center. According to the Ronald McDonald House, every year students from JCDS donate more pop tabs than the year before. “We were able to collect about 100 gallons of tabs this year,” Sarah Morris, Pre-K 4 Lead Teacher, said.
Since 1988, the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Jacksonville has provided a “home away from home” for families of children who are being treated at Jacksonville-area hospitals so they can stay close to their children during the treatments.
“This is such a good service learning project for our Early Learning friends,” Kindergarten Lead Teacher Cindy Ball said. “What a wonderful organization to be able to help out in such a much-needed way,” Pre-K 3 Lead Teacher Laurie Stayer agreed.
Modeling service learning for the students, the Early Learning department, which is comprised of Pre-K 3 through Kindergarten faculty, donated paper products and snacks to the house as well.
Last school year, 3rd grade students raised money through chores to provide suitcases and travel bags for children served by Daniel Kids Foundations. The foundation serves children from Jacksonville who are in difficult situations. The travel bags allow children in transitory living situations to have something other than plastic bags to transport their belongings. This project helped teach the students the importance of giving back to the community, and showing kindness and empathy towards others.
The Daniel Kids Foundation “takes care of children who don’t have a home and children who lost their parents. I think the foundation is great because it helps the lives of kids,” 3rd grade student Sameera said about the service project. “To help the children, everyone in 3rd grade earned money to buy a bag for the children to use,” 3rd grade student Emma added.
“Donating the bag made me feel good. It was great knowing that I was helping kids in need,” reflected 3rd grade student Nicholas.
“When I found out about our service project, which was to donate backpacks or travelling bags to children in need, I was eager to help. In the end, we had donated more than 40 bags from the whole 3rd grade. It was exciting that we had all of these bags to help kids in need” 3rd grade student Maya said.
The 6th graders are the student-leaders of the school and they also lead when it comes to service learning. Sixth grade students organized a holiday toy and sock drive for St. Vincent’s Mobile Health Outreach Ministry over the winter. It was a huge success, with the 6th graders donating more than1,500 new toys and pairs of socks for the families in need served by St. Vincent’s.
"These wonderful students are proof that kindness and generosity transcend age," said Jane R. Lanier, President of the St. Vincent's Foundation. "Thoughtful and giving children grow up to be thoughtful and giving adults, and we are blessed to have their support. Their compassion allows us to advance our Mission of caring for those who need it most."
St. Vincent’s Mobile Health Outreach provides free health and dental services to underserved populations in Northeast Florida. The St. Vincent’s team was moved by the generosity of the JCDS community and said the toys and socks made a big impact on the families they serve.
Last spring, 6th grade students collected travel-sized toiletries because they wanted to do something else to help St. Vincent’s Mobile Outreach. They collected 542 of these items for St. Vincent's to distribute to the community that it serves. Thanks to JCDS parent Aly Leeper for coordinating these two projects with St. Vincent’s! “It has really been incredible to see how generous our students are," 6th grade Associate Teacher David Sandlin.
Taylor Bateh (’11), an alum who recently graduated high school, wrote in a submission for the JCDS Alumni Scholars Essay Contest: “From the JCDS dollar dress down days and the various food, book, and shoe drives, I learned at a young age the impact that the smallest contribution can have. I credit the character education at JCDS and the school’s encouragement to give back to the community for allowing me to experience the joy of community service and engagement at a young age. I attribute my empathy and passion for philanthropy to the foundation I received at JCDS.”
Throughout the year, students, in addition to faculty and staff at JCDS, support many local, national, and international non-profits through grade level service projects. These include Student Council-sponsored “Break the Dress Code Days” and the faculty and staff’s Jeans for Charity Days.
Charities Supported by the students and staff of JCDS for the 2016-2017 school year include:
- Alzheimer’s Foundation
- American Cancer Society
- Angels for Allison
- Books-A-Go Go
- Brookdale Senior Living Facility
- Daniels Kids Foundation
- Ellie Kavalieros DIPG Research Fund
- Jacksonville Humane Society
- National Ovarian Cancer Coalition
- The Ronald McDonald House of Jacksonville
- St. Francis Soup Kitchen
- St. Johns Housing Partnership
- St. Johns Riverkeeper
- St. Vincent’s HealthCare Foundation
- UF Health Jacksonville
- United Way of Northeast Florida
- Veterans Affairs Hospitals and Nursing Homes in Northeast Florida
- Water for South Sudan
- Wolfson Children’s Hospital
- World Vision