SCHERERVILLE | At a time of year when most children 3 and 4 are thinking only of Santa Claus and what gifts he will leave under their tree, preschoolers at Forest Ridge Academy have been thinking of others.
Kate Franks, mother of FRA preschooler Milo, contacted Susan Bach, preschool teacher, with an idea from she and a friend, Jill Flores, to to help others in need. She asked to come to the Young Scholars class to assist the children with putting together “Bags of Hope” to give to strangers in need. Franks gathered and brought all of the items to go in the bags.
It was explained to the preschoolers that some children don’t have any toys to play with or a warm house to live in. When people don’t have a house to live in, Franks added, they often have no way to take a bath or brush their teeth.
She explained each item that the children placed in the bags to help ease the experience of homelessness during cold winter months.
The Bags of Hope contain warm socks, a wash cloth and soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, comb, cough drops, bandages, water, a granola bar, tissues and more.
Franks also gave each child two candy canes - one for the bag and the other for the child filling the bag.
Most importantly, Frank added, the bags contain hope - one of the most important parts of surviving life’s ups and downs. A felt heart in each bag symbolizes the hope that each bag will serve as a reminder to its recipient to believe in themselves and their fellow man.
Young Scholar families were asked to keep their Bag of Hope in the car this winter to give to a homeless person they see. “The children really seemed to grasp the concept,” Bach said.
In yet another effort to give back, parent Brandi Messinio arranged for Young Scholars to have their own giving tree. Instead of exchanging gifts with a classmate, Messinio contacted St. Jude House Family Violence Prevention Center and Shelter in Crown Point and secured the name of a child from the center for each classmate.
The response was overwhelming, stated Bach. Each student had a few gift suggestions attached to their child's name, however most families purchased several items to share. The children brought their purchases to the winter party and Franks and Messinio delivered them.
"Mrs. Franks and Ms. Messinio gave the children such a wonderful opportunity to take the first step in reaching out to help others," Bach said. "To open up their minds to how rewarding it can be to help our fellow man is a lesson we hope they will take along with them on their life journey."