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Sand Hill students' pet project expands to help Manna House
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The students in Kelly Tankersley's class are, left to right, back row: Braylen Fogle, Alex McCurry, Leo Ottoboni, Kortni Weimer, Trevor Price and Darren Hanovich; front row: Christian Smith, Rubelci Rivas, Peyton Schuman and Patrick McBride. - photo by Photo by Paul Floeckher

A group of students from Sand Hill Elementary School aren’t letting their own challenges stop them from helping people in the community.

Students in Kelly Tankersley’s special-education class held a food drive to benefit Manna House Ministries. The 10 students, who are in kindergarten through second grade, collected 265 pounds of food, according to Manna House Director Lisa Bush.

“We were thrilled with the amount of food we got,” Tankersley said.

The 10 students who participated were Braylen Fogle, Darren Hanovich, Patrick McBride, Alex McCurry, Leo Ottoboni, Trevor Price, Rubelci Rivas, Peyton Schuman, Christian Smith and Kortni Weimer.

Many people gave food donations as they dropped off their children in the car rider line before school, Tankersley said. Other donations came from the school’s faculty and staff, and from Tankersley’s students themselves.

“It makes them feel good. We’ve talked about how it makes you feel when you do for somebody else,” Tankersley said. “You can always be kind and do for others, no matter what, no matter where you are.”

When Bush visited Sand Hill Elementary to pick up the donations, Tankersley asked the students how they felt knowing they were helping people who need food.

“Happy!” they replied in unison, all smiles.

The food drive evolved from another pet project for Tankersley’s class. The children make homemade dog treats, which they hand out to dogs riding in cars in the dropoff line.

The students bake and package the dog treats, then give them out one Friday a month. Tankersley came up with the idea to expand it to a community service project, helping a different organization or cause each month.

“It just started off as giving out treats,” she said, “but then I thought, now how can we extend it? How can we reach out to a community?”

Along with the students feeling good about helping others, the service projects enable the community to see the capabilities of Tankersley’s special-education students. They are the only SHES students involved in the effort.

“This is their special thing, and it makes people aware of their abilities and what they’re very capable of doing,” Tankersley said. “I don’t want them to be pitied, I don’t want people to think that they’re not able, I don’t want people to feel sorry for them. If they take anything away from my classroom, I want it to be that ‘I can be kind, I can give back, I can make a difference.’”

Sand Hill’s donations will be distributed through Manna House’s food pantry. Manna House provides food to hundreds of Effingham County families each month, according to Bush.

“It’s great to see children giving to others at such a young age and understanding the importance of helping in their community,” Bush said.

Tankersley led the class in lessons on what it’s like for people to be hungry. The children were asked how they would feel if they had no food in their house.

“They are very fortunate that they haven’t had that, but we wanted them to know that there are people who maybe are not as fortunate,” Tankersley said. “We talked about what this is going to mean for somebody’s life.”