Northridge Elementary School third-graders mixed dog-themed sweets at their bake sale with a desire to help, coming up with a recipe for kindness.
Students in Carinda Claassen?s class wanted to raise money for the local humane society, so they decided to have a bake sale. Some of the treats, which all sold for 50 cents, carried a dog theme ? some were sugar cookies in the shapes of bones and dogs, and there was ?puppy chow.?
Right after the ?school?s out? bell rang on a particular Friday, students raced to the sale area, purchasing the sugary treats, which sold out in minutes.
Claassen has a service dog from the Newton humane society that goes to the class, and, because of that influence, students wanted the proceeds from the sale to go to the Caring Hands Humane Society in Newton. This caring for others, whether they?re humans or animals, at the school comes from a ?kindness? curriculum set forth by Janel Rogers.
?Every elementary school (in the district) has a school social worker,? said Rogers, Northridge social worker. ?I personally chose kindness as my theme to focus lessons and activities on? this academic year.
Rogers took an online Kindness in the Classroom Course through Colorado University in Boulder this past spring semester. The money for the course was provided by the Women?s Community Fund. Each year, the fund gives money to a variety of charities in the Newton area. The money from the grant given to Northridge also was used to purchase books that went along with work Rogers has been doing in the classroom, and the books had morals to them, Rogers said. This ties the books into social/emotional learning.
Through the Random Acts of Kindness website, Rogers said she learned about the course she took in the spring.
?Through the course, I?m developing a curriculum,? she said. ?The grant paying for that course is going to be very helpful for me in developing a curriculum for next year.?
Rogers also has incorporated ideas for activities and projects from other sources, including the Random Acts website.
Kindness also will be Roger?s theme during the next academic year at Northridge. The curriculum includes solving problems, empathy and conflict resolution.
?I think our district has been very supportive,? Rogers said. ?For children to do well in school, they need to function well in the classroom socially. They need to be able to get along with each other, handle their emotions. They need to be able to handle conflicts with each other. We really promote that social/emotional learning. Being a good citizen is part of learning ? just like reading, writing and math. Hopefully, starting at the elementary level will set a good foundation for that.?
Rogers said she goes into every classroom at Northridge, leading lessons on a variety of kindness topics, such as handling your emotions, friendships, conflicts and problem solving.
Rogers has had students do a variety of projects, such as writing thank-you letters to adults who work behind the scenes at the school, like custodians and secretaries.
?Helping the kids to see we couldn?t function without everybody doing their part,? Rogers said.
Students also were asked to take home pink paper hearts as part of a Bee Kind project. The hearts have bees on them, and parents and teachers were asked to write down acts of kindness they observed students doing, like helping siblings or doing something useful around the house without being asked.
During the 2013-14 academic year, there also was a Kindness Club for fourth-graders, which is the oldest grade at the school. The club met once a month, and club members helped with the Bee Kind project and made posters to put around the school.
?The idea was they were to be role models for kindness,? Rogers said. ?They developed kindness presentations to share with the younger kids.?
Women?s Community Fund
It started as an idea among five friends sitting around a kitchen table in 2000. The Women?s Community Fund now has grown to 43 members in 2013.
?The community-minded women, including Nancy Craig, Ann Davidson, Suzie Luginbill, Katie Reese and Susan Rhoades, had read about a giving circle, which had become very successful in other communities, and decided to use the same concept to benefit charities in Newton and the surrounding area,? according to a news release.
The group?s organizational committee partnered with the Greater Newton Community Foundation, now known as the Central Kansas Community Founda?tion, to manage this charitable fund.
Since its inception, the group has generated almost $220,000 for charities in the Newton area. In addition to Northridge, 2013 recipients included Agape Resource Center, CASA: A Voice for Children, Harvey County Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Task Force Inc., Harvey County Homeless Shelter Inc., HOPE Home Repair Inc., Newton Meals on Wheels Inc., Newton Recreation Commission, Peace Connections, St. Matthew?s Representative Payee, Trinity Heights Respite Care Inc. and Youthville/EmberHope.
In that light, WCF seems to stick to its motto: ?Together we can accomplish great things.?
The group provides philanthropy opportunities for area women, and any woman can join. All a woman has do it is contribute, and the group has various contribution levels. Junior Members can contribute $300 while Premiere Members give $1,000. There also are other levels. Mem?bership doesn?t carry over to the next year; if a woman wants to join another year, she needs to donate.
To join and for more information, call the Foundation at 316-283-5474. Donations are tax deductible.
Jennifer Vogts, one of three chairwomen of the group, said this probably is the most rewarding experience she?s ever had because the Fund supports local organizations. Members really are helping their neighbors, she said. The other chairwomen are Pamela McCullough, D.D.S., and Diana Torline.
Vogts said she wants to contribute, in a positive way, to the community in which she resides.
?For me, being a member of the Women?s Community Fund is the biggest reward ? joining forces with women who are our friends in a charitable way feels like a sisterhood.?
Until this year, the donated money was put into an expendable fund. Last year?s advisory committee brought up the idea to create an endowed fund, which will add more permanency to the Fund. In honor of a fellow sister, that fund is called the Jan Elizabeth Saab Women?s Community Fund Endowment. Saab, who died Feb. 14, 2012, was a WCF member who demonstrated a great deal of leadership for this circle and deeply cared about the impact these grants would make in her community, held every position in the group.
?The privilege of being an Advisory Committee member is a three-year term,? Vogts said.
?(Saab) was a woman who gave of her time and talents; giving circles like this rely on committed members of the community, and Jan was a fundamental member of this circlet,? said Sandra Fruit, executive director of the Central Kansas Community Foundation in Newton.
?Creating this fund will allow women?s philanthropy in Newton for perpetuity,? a WCF brochure stated. Interest and earnings from the fund will benefit charities while keeping the principal in the fund intact.
Past tri-chairwoman Marilyn Sjogren was instrumental in getting the endowed fund established, as were current tri-chairwomen Vogts and McCullough.Even though 43 was the highest membership WCF has ever had, Fruit would like to see it reach 50 or more.
?We?re going to hit it one of these days,? she said.
Applying for grants
Organizations that get grants are determined from year to year by a majority vote at the WCF annual meeting. The largest grants given in 2013 were for $3,000 each, while the smallest was $424.95.
Each summer, grant applications are accepted from Newton-area non-profit groups. Then, the Grants Committee looks over the requests and gives WCF members ballots of the finalists. In October, WCF members vote during the annual meeting regarding recipients, who are given awards in November.
WCF is under the umbrella of the Central Kansas Community Foundation, and CKCF program director Chancy Gerbitz and office manager Brenda Eitzen manage the membership drive with the WCF chairs and coordinate the grant-making cycle to ensure its execution meets state and federal regulations, given its philanthropic nature.
?We couldn?t grow without their support and expertise at all,? Vogts said.
Photos and Story by?Wendy Nugent