Kittens, cookies, plastic bags and birthday cards.
While most would see these four items as largely unrelated, DeSana Middle School students, teachers and parents recognize the common thread: service projects.
On Monday, the school —which is about to complete its first year of operation — held its inaugural day of community service, aptly named the DeSana Day of Good Deeds, or D3 Day.
Volunteers by the numbers
- 697 students
- 80 parent and community volunteers
- 70 school staff members
Service projects by the numbers
- 6,552 cookies packed in 48 boxes for soldiers overseas
- 3,000 breast cancer awareness ribbons
- 2,500 plastic bags used to make mats for the homeless
- 1,000 hope strips, 150 birthday cards and $300 to Lighthouse Family Retreat
- 45 blankets for feral kittens
The event, which was organized by two DeSana mothers, Jenn Harris and Dawn Bourg, was inspired by Piney Grove Middle School’s annual service day, the Grizzly Great Day of Giving, or G3 Day.
“A lot of us came from Piney Grove, which started their day of service 10 years ago,” Bourg said. “When DeSana was [built], we were redistricted and many of us had kids who had done three years of service at Piney Grove, and we felt passionate about doing [the same] with our second and third kids who are now at DeSana.
“Terri North, DeSana’s principal, came from Piney Grove and [G3 Day] was her baby, so she was very open to continuing the day of service tradition.”
From 9 a.m. to noon, the school’s 697 students, along with 70 staff members and 80 parents and community volunteers, worked with 27 local organizations, including the Church of the Good Shepherd, Northside Hospital-Forsyth, the Humane Society of Forsyth County, Lighthouse Family Retreat and Treat the Troops, among others.
While DeSana’s eighth graders traveled off-campus to perform service work, the school’s sixth and seventh graders remained at the school, where they participated in various projects.
Some worked with 2,500 plastic bags to make mats for locals suffering from homelessness, while others helped assemble 3,000 breast cancer awareness ribbons, still others braiding the edges of 45 blankets that will be given to feral kittens.
No matter the project, Bourg said, the students embraced the opportunity to help.
“These children are quite amazing,” she said. “Most of these kids could double the work we gave them, but we were limited by our donations, which came from corporations. Overall, though, it was a fantastic experience.”
In addition to helping local organizations, students heard from various community members, including a U.S. Navy reservist, about why their help is important.
“We had 6,552 cookies to send to Treat the Troops packed into 48 boxes [that contained] cookies, magazines, powdered drink mixes,” Bourg said. “That was a really popular project, and the Navy reservist came to talk about the importance of soldiers hearing from people in the U.S.
“Our philosophy has been, yes, this day does affect many organizations in Forsyth County that desperately need donations and other [help], but the most important thing is planting the seed of altruism in children at a young age. If they get that feeling of wanting to give back early, it makes them want to do it again, and that, to me, is more important than anything else.”
Bourg said while the day, which culminated in a school assembly that celebrated the students’ work with ice cream and a DJ, was a success, next year’s will focus on sending more children into the community.
“Looking to next year, our goal would be to send more kids out into community —maybe have our seventh graders join the eighth graders, but all of that would be based on our budget,” she said. “But the overall goal is to get bigger and better. This year was all about creating processes and next year those will all be in place, so hopefully we can involve more community organizations.
“Once you prove the kids are capable, the [organizations] are way more willing to say yes, and I think we proved our value this year so hopefully next year more will be willing to work with us.”