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Students support needy families for Thanksgiving

Elite Scholars Academy’s Helping Hands Club and Health Occupation Students of America collect canned goods and turkey for needy families. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

Elite Scholars Academy’s Helping Hands Club and Health Occupation Students of America collect canned goods and turkey for needy families. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

MORROW — As students began to give more, the action quickly became contagious.

That was the sentiment of those who helped organize the food drive at Elite Scholars Academy in support of efforts by social workers in Clayton County Public Schools.

The department of school social workers hosts a district-wide food drive each year for needy families at Thanksgiving. This is the fifth such campaign that involves school employees.

School spokesman Charles White said the drive to collect canned goods and non-perishable food items served 123 families, or 367 individuals. The district also distributed 120 turkeys with donations from the student services department, the Eula Ponds Perry Center, Hearts to Nourish Hope Inc. and others.

White said student volunteers helped with sorting, packing boxes and collecting donations.

Students throughout the county joined the effort by hosting their own school-level drives.

Elite Scholars’ Helping Hands Club and Health Occupation Students of America chapter recently hosted a school-wide drive that surpassed their expectations.

The Helping Hands Club is a student service group sponsored by biology teacher Linda Funkhouser. The student-led HOSA chapter is sponsored by the school’s health and physical education teacher, Jason Greenlee, and health care technician, Sharon Smith.

The groups organized a canned food drive and collected money to buy turkeys for the cause.

“We made it a challenge so that the class with the most canned foods won a pizza party,” said Funkhouser. “It went beyond what we expected. We ended up getting 14 turkeys and about 400 cans.”

Helping Hands Club President Ariel Crews, 17, said the experience was gratifying to her.

“It helps you define yourself as a person,” said Crews.

“It helped me recognize my blessings,” said Khayla Smallwood, 17, the club’s vice president. “It’s great to see people rise above their challenges and overcome.”

Smallwood said students’ efforts will continue throughout the holidays.

Helping Hands Club plans to donate Christmas boxes of gifts and toiletries to Crisis Pregnancy Center in Acworth, said Funkhouser.

She said the group is soliciting support from community members, who can donate items and money to help theclub create the gift-wrapped boxes for the pregnancy resource center. The deadline for support is Dec. 13.

The school’s Health Occupation Students of America chapter is planning to host a LifeSouth-sponsored community blood drive Dec. 10, from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m.

Greenlee said the community is invited to participate in the drive at 5968 Maddox Road in Morrow.

Last year, the community donated 17 pints of blood, said Greenlee, adding his hopes of surpassing that amount this year.

Contact Elite Scholars Academy at 404-362-3811 for updates.