A Gift Of Warmth For Edison

Donna Carroll, Julie McDonald, Emily Kobza
Donna Carroll, Julie McDonald, Emily Kobza

Today’s lovely post is written by Donna Carroll, Director of Health Initiatives for CIS.

If Edison School looked like a department store last Friday it was not by chance. Over 250 volunteers from the Radiant Church in Richland magically transformed the school on Thursday evening, decorating hallways with giant icicles and candy canes, and transforming the gym into a store with racks filled with clothes, mirrors and tables. They weren’t setting up for a movie shoot, but for the Big Give Winter Fest, an enormously generous giveaway that would allow every Edison child to shop for a warm winter coat, hat, gloves and boots. The only thing missing was the cash register because this shopping experience was paid for by the over $70,000 in donations collected by the congregation at Radiant.

100_4384As individual classes lined up to shop they were entertained by Santa and his elves and could take turns hula hooping to burn off some of their excitement. As each student reached the store they were paired with a personal shopper who assisted them with their selections. Communities In Schools assistant site coordinator Christina Czuhajewski had laid some of the important ground work in the weeks before the event, contacting over 400 parents to fill out cards with the students’ sizes. So the shoppers were able to work from those cards and take the student to a rack filled with coats in the right size. All the student had to do was pick the style and color of his or her choice. Floor length mirrors gave students a chance to try on their coat and see if it was the right one. After the important coat selection had been made it was on to find matching hats, gloves and boots. When all selections were made they were put into large shopping bags for delivery to classrooms.

100_4336Radiant volunteers worked their holiday magic in other areas of the school as well. They provided pizza for students who were treated to holiday songs by a talented duo who got students to join in both words and actions to Rudolph, Frosty and other holiday favorites. Then it was on to the library where classes had hot chocolate and decorated cookies (which quickly disappeared), and then made reindeers from candy canes, pipe cleaners and other supplies. Each station was manned by Radiant volunteers, all wearing their light blue t-shirts and sunny smiles. As one volunteer said, “This is so much fun. Just seeing the smiles on the faces of the students makes it all worth while.”

“The school and teachers are so appreciative” said Principal Julie McDonald. “It’s such a generous gift to our students, to know that they will all have what they need for this cold weather.”



Monica (left) and Chelsea, just two of the over 200 volunteers from Radiant Church who worked hard to make the Big Give Winter Fest fabulous. Thank you, Radiant Church!
Monica (left) and Chelsea, just two of the over 200 volunteers from Radiant Church who worked hard to make the Big Give Winter Fest fabulous. Thank you, Radiant Church!



Think Summer! Think Water!

Water DropletWhat is the best thing that has ever happened to you? For one fifth grader, it is being a part of the CIS “Think Summer” program which is running out of Hillside Middle School this summer. “I get to see my friends and learn all kinds of stuff. It’s the best thing that has ever happened to me!”

Last week, the third through fifth grade classes learned much about water from environmental experts from the City of Kalamazoo, Mike Wetzel and John Paquin. They brought in a groundwater simulation unit and gave an exciting demonstration for the students as to how water (and pollution) moves underground. The students also had a chance to meet Kalamazoo County Drain Commissioner, Pat Crowley, and learn more about storm water and that “clean water is everybody’s business.” As one student later reflected, “It was quite a coincidence that the Drain Commissioner visited us and then later that day we had a horrible storm! I’ll never think of storms in the same way again.”

The following day, volunteers from the Kalamazoo River Cleanup Coalition and Create Hope Park founder (and KPS parent) Dustin Harback gave students a chance to take what they have learned from the water experts and put their knowledge into action by sharing their own visions for clean, healthy land through art. The students wrapped up by creating water proclamations. The fifth graders urged grown ups to “properly dispose of chemicals and other products by taking them for free to theKalamazoo County Household Hazardous Waste Center. This will help keep our drinking water healthy.” And because they learned that water is everybody’s business, they too, will be taking action. “We will not waste water, we will take shorter showers, turn off water as we brush our teeth, we won’t pollute, and we will think of ways to slow down storm water.”

AmeriCorps VISTA Christina Czuhajewski took the opportunity to talk with several of the students who reflected on their experience. Here are a few excerpts from these conversations.

Christina, with Abriannah who will be entering fourth grade this fall.

What did you think about the presentation yesterday? I liked it a lot.

What did you like? That it was like real life and you got to pump the water out. It was really cool but kind of hard to (pump the water out) because it was stuck in the dirt.

Did you go home and think about what you learned? Yeah I told my mom too. I gave her a sticky note that said “protect our water, that’s what we drink.” She hung it on the refrigerator, and then she put a magnet on the refrigerator that was a rain drop..

Do you have any other comments? I want them to do it again! Because it was really cool. Water week is really cool.

Christina also spoke with Jordyn, who will be entering fifth grade this fall.

What did you like about the presentation? I’ve never thought about water like that before. But after this, I’ll think about it a lot.

Any questions you still have for them? I asked some pretty good questions and they answered them. I asked, “How many gallons do you guys pump up a day or an hour?” and they said, within a week, they pump up thousands and thousands, and they said last summer since it was so hot, for the whole entire summer, they pumped at least a billion gallons of water!…It was pretty cool.

Any other thoughts or comments? I think that I’d like them to come back and show more things about water, and to maybe the high schoolers—that’d be a good thing for the high schoolers to learn. And some of the kids down the hall didn’t get to see it. I was wondering if they could come back another time because that was a cool presentation.

A Water Proclamation

The water in our city of Kalamazoo is clean and healthy.  To make sure that it stays that way and is available to all:

We, the third grade students of  CIS “Think Summer” believe that our lands and water needs to stay clean and not be polluted.

We also believe this about water: No one should be allowed to pollute water and if they do, they should clean it up.

We urge that steps be taken by adults to make sure that all kids have clean water.

We ask that adults not litter, pollute, or put sticky gooey icky stuff in the water and clean up any pollution that is already there.

We will make sure we do not pollute the water. It is all our business.

What’s In A Name

Don’t let April slip away without writing a poem. It’s poetry month after all. Not sure how to start? Be a part of building our group poem on facebook or try your hand at a “My Name Is” poem. Don’t think too hard, just fill in the blanks by writing the word or phrase that comes to mind:

Today my name is ________________________. Yesterday my name was ______________________. Tomorrow my name will be ___________________. In my dream my name was ____________________. My _______ thinks my name is ________________.

Below is Donielle Hetrick’s version of a My Name Is poem. Donielle is an AmeriCorps VISTA with CIS and has been working out at Linden Grove Middle School and Northglade Montessori Elementary School since October 2012. She completed the poem as part of a warm-up exercise we did as part of VISTA training last week. Stop down to City Hall today between noon and one and you can meet Donielle and our six other AmeriCorps VISTAs who will be with Mayor Bobby Hopewell and former NFL player and Loy Norrix graduate, TJ Duckett, for Ready, Set, College! For one hour these folks will all be sharing the same name: “one who is collecting college gear for students soon graduating from high school.”

My Name Is

Today my name is drank expired milk for breakfast.

Yesterday my name was lover of pj’s.

Tomorrow my name will be sunshine lady.

In my dream my name was henchman #3.

My grandma thinks my name is Katie, Pat, Deb, Donielle.

What’s your name? Who will you be tomorrow?