The generosity of several teachers at Thomson Elementary School helped to make Christmas brighter for at least eight area families in McDuffie County. It also warmed the hearts of those who shared those special gifts - all of whom went to children with special requests.
Helping to coordinate the effort were staff members of Partners for Success in Thomson - a group of educators and parents banning together to offer tutoring and many other outreach services to students.
Vanessa Reddick, who moved to Thomson three months ago from neighboring Glascock County, is one of those whose family was helped. Ms. Reddick, who receives only a monthly Social Security check for disability, is trying to raise two granddaughters, ages 10 and 12.
"It would have been a very slim Christmas for the kids had it not been for the generosity and love of those teachers and the nice people at Partners for Success," said a tearful Ms. Reddick, who is divorced. "We had a much brighter Christmas because of what all of those people did for us. There really is a God and it showed in the hearts of those who helped us."
Ms. Reddick, who is down on her luck right now because her car is torn up, says God "holds a special place for all of those people who helped my granddaughters have a nice Christmas. They are all special people and I will forever be grateful to God for them."
Two bags of gifts were taken to her home by Fran Whittle and Tamica Collins, who work at Partners For Success.
"It meant a lot to me personally to be a part of making Christmas brighter for a few families less fortunate in the Thomson area," said Ms. Collins, a parent educator and assistant director of Partners for Success.
Ms. Whittle, who also serves as a parent educator there, shared those sentiments.
"It was a very heartwarming experience," said Ms. Whittle. "It makes you feel real good inside to help people."
The gifts that were distributed to the eight needy families were all purchased by 35 teachers at Thomson Elementary School, according to Megan Cobb, the school's reading resource teacher.
"We wanted to do this as part of the Angel Tree Project that is done through Partners for Success," said Mrs. Cobb. "We all realized that we have so much and that there are others in our community who don't have. We just wanted to do something special for them."
Mrs. Cobb said she hopes the project becomes an annual one at the school and that other schools within the McDuffie County School System will participate next year, too.
"We could help so many more needy families then," added Mrs. Cobb.
Gifts were sorted and placed into large bags for those who were to receive them. Some of the gifts purchased included coats, shoes, books, electrical toys, riding toys, etc. There was even a basket with special items in it for a two-week old infant.
Gail Taylor of Partners for Success joined Ms. Whittle in retrieving the gift bags from the school. Taking part in helping load the items into a vehicle were students Alex Austin, Raletreice Mathis, Shelby Ewest and Shacoria Ramsey. Second grade teacher Soundra Maxwell also participated.
"This is so meaningful to us as educators. It's a great way of sharing with others," Thomson Elementary School Assistant Principal Gwendolyn Nipple.