Sharing a Smile

originally published Summer 2018

Classes from Clinton schools often visit Second Harvest, a ministry of Morrison Heights Baptist Church, to learn more about the organization that provides food, clothes, and other necessities to families in need. But when volunteer Wayne Wilkinson told a group of Clinton Park Elementary first-graders that the organization was in desperate need of toothpaste, the field trip soon turned into a school-wide service project.

Seven first-graders (Liam Davis, Evan Rone, Walker Jackson, Mamie Rae Boswell, Sidney Owens Morgan, Emily Fortenberry, and Janae Sinclair) came up with the plan to benefit Second Harvest.

“They wanted to do something to help, so they decided to hold a toothpaste drive,” says their teacher Myra Kinchen. “They wrote the things that they wanted to accomplish on a large sheet of paper.”

The students had recently won a canned food drive for Second Harvest back in December, but Kinchen says this was the class’s biggest project to date. “I gave them advice on the structure of the project,” she says.

The toothpaste drive ran for 9 days between Spring Break and Good Friday, and boxes were placed in hallways in each wing of the school for donations. Because the students wanted to motivate their peers to contribute, Kinchen suggested they go to the other classrooms and share what they were doing. So the students wrote their own speeches and split up to talk to a total of 36 Clinton Park classrooms about why they should donate toothpaste to Second Harvest. The students also wrote their own morning announcements to be read over the intercom that included an updated total of how many toothpaste tubes had been collected.

“The project was their idea,” says Kinchen. “I offered a lot of guidance, but they did all of the work. This group of students was not only motivated to start the project, but they also stayed motivated throughout.”

At the end of the drive, a total of 1,492 tubes of toothpaste and 272 toothbrushes were collected.

“It was a tremendous blessing,” says Wilkinson. “On the day the kids visited Second Harvest, we couldn’t believe our eyes when the back door of the school bus opened and we saw all those boxes.”

Wilkinson says that food donations are important, but items such as toothpaste often get overlooked. “Being able to partner with Clinton Park Elementary has been a great fit,” he says. “Their donations will go a long way in helping to meet the needs of those families that participate in this ministry of Morrison Heights Baptist Church.”

Kinchen says she’s not sure what volunteer project the students will take on next, but it showed the first-graders that they can make a difference. “I hope this project gives children the motivation to help others,” she says.

“I learned that other people need help and that I can help them,” says Janae Sinclair, age 7.

“We can help people with things that they do not have,” adds Sidney Owens Morgan, also age 7.

“Kids understand putting others before themselves,” says Wilkinson. “This class, like the rest of the classes at Clinton Park, are our future leaders, and to see them step up and facilitate a service project on their very own was extremely special.”

-Abigail Walker

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A freelance writer from the Deep South with a love of reading, writing, dramatic storytelling, indie music, and her corgi pup.

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