The following has been reproduced from an article appearing in the January 2011 issue of Life In Naples
January is the time when many people make resolutions to be a better person, to be patient and kind, to "pay it forward" or give back. But children in four Collier schools make these resolutions throughout the year as part of the Charity for Change character development curriculum. They learn about cooperation, respect, responsibility, tolerance, kindness, perseverance, self-control, honesty, integrity and fairness. Charity for Change, a Naples-based charity, helps students learn these important characteristics while they also raise money for charities in the community.
"The School "Giver" Program helps instill the spirit of giving and volunteering in children by presenting the opportunity to learn about charities and experience the rewarding feeling that comes from helping others," says Karen Conley, President and CEO. "This program is an investment in our children, schools, and community, as we are engaging students in the community, and the community in our schools."
"We celebrate the students, teachers, parents and community for supporting this initiative," said member of the Charity for Change Advisory Board, Donna Fiala. "We're very proud of what these students and schools have accomplished."
Initiated during the 2008-09 school year, the School "Giver" Program now includes four elementary schools and more than 3,000 students. During the 2009-10 school year, the students at Calusa Park, Golden Terrace, Lake Park and Lely Elementary schools raised $16,037.02 for 72 charities. All the money raised by the students goes to the charities; Charity for Change's operations are funded solely by individual donations, foundation grants, business partners and civic organizations.
During five six-week sessions throughout the year,each classroom selects a charity to support and a monetary goal to achieve. Each class typically raises between $20 and $40 for each charity. Each session has a charity theme: Food/Shelter/Emergency, Health, Animal Welfare, Art/Education/Environment and School Choice.
To raise funds, children donate change they receive from snack money, allowances,and even the Tooth Fairy. They hold bake sales and make items to sell. Second grade students at Lake Park Elementary sold crafts and placemats to raise money for their class charity, St. Matthew's House.
Weekly, students play the Charity for Change math game called "Counting for Charity." With each correct answer, they raise additional dollars that are provided by community sponsors such as WalMart and Publix.
The charities who receive the funds are invited to visit the classrooms and discuss the work they do. Over 50 classrooms were visited by charity representatives during the last charity session. "The school visits provide a wonderful opportunity for us to thank the students first-hand and share with the children and their teachers the incredible ways in which their generosity is impacting the lives of our children and families," said Ron McSwiney, CEO at Youth Haven. "I am always so impressed with how engaged the students are and how much genuine interest they show in learning about how their donations help Youth Haven. The Charity for Change program does a remarkable job of showing students that no matter how big or little a gift is, it will make a long-lasting difference in others lives."
Calusa Park Principal, Dr.Terrie Mitev, commented, "The School 'Giver' Program has enriched and broadened our students' understanding of their community, helping us develop their character, citizenship and empathy for others."
"Our partnership with the Charity for Change program has had a very positive impact on our students,"says Lake Park Elementary Principal Tamie Stewart. "They have learned more about charitable organizations, the community, and the importance of helping others, thus creating a culture of 'giving' at Lake Park Elementary (The Little School with a Big Heart!)."
Throughout the year, the students are visited by the Charity for Change mascot, Giver Gives, a 6-foot orangutan. Giver attends special school celebrations, such as reading night at Lake Park Elementary and the Red Walk at Lely Elementary School.
Students also interact with Giver and his toucan friend, U2Can Gives, by performing as puppeteers in the character development puppet shows. The puppets are used to act out examples of the character traits. Students at Calusa Park also write and perform original skits.
The students are rewarded for their positive behavior and good citizenship with prizes donated by the charities and local businesses. Students are also awarded with special certificates signed by Giver for exhibiting the character trait of the month.
Because all the funds the children raise go directly to the charities, Charity for Change relies on donations to run its operations. Donations to Charity for Change provide items such as goal setting posters, charity banks for the classrooms, incentive prizes, custom math game and puzzle development, puppets and puppet theaters, and character development skits.
"We invite individuals, businesses, foundations and other organizations to support these children in the important work they are doing for our community," Conley says."The students are working very hard to be good citizens and help others. It's an honor to show them that our community believes in them."
Donations can be made online at charityforchange.org. Conley can be reached at 239.592.6787.