Holy Family Early Childhood Classrooms Bring Joy to Community
By: Deidra Bowling-Meade
Greater Ashland Beacon
“Give something, however small, to the one in need. For it is not small to one who has nothing. Neither is it small to God if we have given what we could.”
-St. Gregory Nazianzen
The season of Advent is upon us! It’s all about reflecting on how we can prepare our hearts and homes for Christ's birth in the world as it is today. The Early Childhood classrooms at Holy Family School in Ashland, Ky are celebrating the season of Advent by collecting teddy bears for Hope's Place.
Holy Family has participated in the teddy bear collection project for 18 years. Mrs. Elizabeth Rucinski, who taught preschool at Holy Family School starting in 2002, participated in the project when she came. Mrs. Gretchen Ward, who began working with Mrs. Rucinski in 2003, continued the project with Rucinski and after Rucinski’s retirement in June 2020. This year the Early Childhood classes taught by Gretchen Ward, Nancy Redden and Julie McCoy are all participating. The only year the project didn’t occur was in 2020 due to Covid restrictions. For many of the students, this is their first introduction to giving. Ward shared, “During Advent, students learn that giving can involve either a self-kind act or giving an item as a gift. To celebrate our own birthdays, a cake might be baked and presents purchased. Much in the same way, students can give a gift to others to prepare for the birthday of Jesus. The students understand that the teddy bears are given to children who don’t have teddy bears of their own.”
Ben Arthur, who is in Mrs. Ward’s preschool class smiled brightly when he picked out a new teddy bear for school. Arthur commented, “I feel good and happy and like that the other kid will feel happy too.” When asked how it feels to give someone a present, Arthur proclaimed, “It makes me feel delightful!” Sarah Arthur, who is Ben Arthur’s mother, was thankful that the students participated in the project, “I love that Ben’s preschool participates in things like this to support the community and that they’ve been doing it for so many years. It’s been a great opportunity to teach Ben more about charitable giving.”
The students are collecting new teddy bears through Dec. 16th. As a student brings in a teddy bear, it is placed under the Christmas tree in the classroom. This project is a favorite for Ward, and she cannot imagine this season without it. Ward declared, “I love to watch the children and see the excitement and joy on their faces as they learn how to give and think of others. I think continuing this tradition is nice.”
The teddy bear collection project is especially dear to Ward’s heart due to the impact it has advocating for children who have been abused. Hope’s Place is a victim-focused, children’s advocacy center that provides a safe atmosphere, lessens trauma and promotes healing by maximizing services through a multi-disciplinary team approach for child victims of sexual abuse. The teddy bears are used as a source of emotional comfort for the children who come to Hope’s Place. The teddy bear stays with the child throughout his/her journey to help the child heal. Giving hope and love to the children is a wonderful gift. More information about ways to donate to Hope’s Place can be found on their website: hopesplace.org or by calling 606.325.4737.
2 Corinthians 9:7-9 commissions us, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” The teddy bear project at Holy Family usually receives 100% participation. It’s not forced upon the students or parents. It’s all about joyful giving and showing love for one another. This Christmas season, consider sharing your time or a gift with those who need it most.