Olathe & southwest Joco

Making joy and learning community service

Updated: 2013-12-10T21:03:41Z

By BETH LIPOFF

Special to The Star

At Brougham Elementary School in Olathe, a group of kids worked hard Thursday afternoon to bring the holiday spirit to the entire community with a special service project.

Through a partnership with children’s toymaker Hasbro, the kids were helping not only local people but also the national Toys for Tots program.

Usually, members of the school’s community service organization, Brougham Service Soldiers, would be the only ones doing a service project, but in this case, things were a little bit different.

“We decided we wanted to go big, so we invited the whole school,” said parent volunteer Deb Bowman.

Of Brougham Elementary’s 400 students, about 85 came to the event. Bowman spearheaded the program with Brougham PTO President Becky Sears.

“The real goal of Service Soldiers is not any product we create. It’s to teach the kids to be lifelong volunteers. If we’re doing a food drive, they’re learning about food insecurity,” Bowman said.

GenerationOn, the Service Soldiers’ national sponsoring organization, aims to inspire young people to serve their communities. It connected them with Hasbro, which makes toys such as Play-Doh and Mr. Potato Head, to make them part of the company’s Be a Joy Maker program.

GenerationOn chose two service clubs from each state to organize Joy Maker programs, Bowman said. The other in Kansas is in Emporia.

The program asks kids to complete acts of service from Dec. 3 to Dec. 20 and then report what they’ve done on the Joy Maker website, givejoy.generationon.org. Hasbro has committed to donate a toy or game to Toys for Tots for each act of community service, up to $1 million. Nationwide, participants have reported more than 14,000 instances of community service so far this year.

Hasbro also sent Bowman 100 toys to be distributed locally to children in need through the Johnson County Christmas Bureau and $100 to fund the craft projects the kids made Thursday.

The kids worked together on a number of arts and crafts items to brighten the community. For Children’s Mercy Hospital patients, they designed holiday cards and assembled puzzle books. Meals on Wheels clients will receive paper tree and snowmen ornaments, along with snowflake placemats.

Other projects included cards, beaded wreaths and paper chains to help bring some holiday cheer to people at the Good Samaritan Center, a nursing home in Olathe. Fleece Dog toys will go to Great Plains SPCA and decorated meals boxes will go to the Salvation Army Food Pantry.

Bowman asked the kids to focus on quality rather than quantity when making the craft projects.

“I need you to remember that everything you’re making is a gift,” she said, speaking to the children. “They’re going to make someone really happy, so I want you to make sure you’re doing really good work.”

The kids understood and worked for about an hour to make the projects.

“We’re making all this stuff, and it feels really good,” said 9-year-old Brennan Hodapp.

Her friend, 10-year-old Luke McBride, agreed.

“You get to do a lot of crafts,” he said. “Doing all the projects is really fun. But not the coloring — coloring’s hard.”

Amy Peterson joined her kids, 7-year-old Sydney and 11-year-old Sam, to volunteer Thursday afternoon. They’ve previously participated in Service Soldiers projects such as a food drive, visits to the Good Samaritan Center and cleaning up a local park.

The idea of having toys go to Toys for Tots because of their service project hits home with the children, she said.

“I think this is a really good opportunity to help people on a bigger level,” said Peterson, who lives in Olathe. “I think it’s something that they can really connect with, because all kids want toys for Christmas. I told my kids that if we go participate, that’s one toy that a little kid gets that they weren’t going to get this year.”

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