First grade class sends school supplies to Afghanistan

Mike Cast - The Leader

POLSON - A first-grade Cherry Valley Elementary School class did something special on Monday. It finished a fundraising effort by packaging boxes of school supplies, walking to the post office and shipping those supplies to children in Afghanistan. The supplies included much needed items such as pencils, pencil sharpeners, socks and coloring books.

The students earned over $90 with a bake sale held on Oct. 22 at Cherry Valley and received two generous $50 donations from the Soroptimist and First Interstate Bank in Polson. The class teacher Pam McCrumb said the opportunity was a good way for the children to learn about selfless action, geography and economics at the same time.

The charity was organized by parent Ed Leas and his first-grade son Daniel Leas.

Ed and Daniel Leas learned of a humanitarian effort on behalf of Daniel's uncle and Ed's brother, Lt. Colonel James Leas, who is serving in Eastern Afghanistan with the Wyoming National Guard. James, in addition to working as an advisor on a military task force to develop infrastructure and support the Afghanistan police, has been working with schools to provide them with basic necessities.

A letter composed by Ed and Daniel was submitted to the Soroptimist and the First Interstate Bank. After Ed and Daniel bought the supplies from Wal-Mart and Costco, it was McCrumb's class who did the work, hand-packaging the goods in the classroom and composing greeting letters for the children in Afghanistan.

The students put together six boxes of supplies.

Cries of "Can I help?" and "I want to help," rang through the classroom as the students took turns taping up boxes and loading them into a red wagon. The class then proceeded down to the post office for a morning walk and field trip.

McCrumb said that collecting money and using it for the cause helped the students think about the basic economic concepts of saving, spending and earning. She also said that mailing the supplies so far away helped open up the big world to the young learners.

"Guess what I did last night?" asked first-grader Mesa McKee of her teacher McCrumb on the way to the post office. "Me and my mom looked at a map and found Afghanistan."

Ed Leas said this sort of project points to the humanitarian side of military efforts in Afghanistan that are sometimes forgotten. He also said that it was a very good experience for the kids.

"It's helpful for them to see the project from start to finish and to see that kids are kids all over the world," Ed said.

One of the letters that a Cherry Valley first grader wrote summed it up, capturing the simplicity of being a kid whether here or over seas.

"Hi!!! My name is Sharmaine. I go to Cherry Valley School. We do math at school. We play at school," it read.

In many of the letters, students mentioned that they were giving the Afghanistan students a package, a clear sign the kids understood they were doing this to help someone else. The kids brought in donations from home themselves and McCrumb organized extra chores at school to give the children the opportunity to work for the cause.

"It's amazing how they can relate, even being six or seven," McCrumb said.

Upon arrival at the post office, the children stormed inside to mail the boxes. McCrumb told the children that the packages needed special papers because they were going so far. The children stared up at post office employee Lori Lucas, making sure the deed was done.

After the packages were sent there was still $30 left over from all of the fundraising. Ed said it will be spent on yet another charity box.