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A lesson better than anything out of a textbook is what one of Owen County’s third-grade teachers has been sharing with her students for over a decade.
Owen County Elementary School teacher Mary Inman began the “caring project” with her students when she began teaching 12 years ago, a tradition that she has continued each holiday season and one that she says her students are always happy to get behind.
“We had a family that we knew when I started teaching that was struggling financially,” Inman said. “The Family Resource Center and the extension office were already sponsoring families, but we wanted to help.”
Since then, Inman’s class has continued to bring Christmas to needy Owen County children each year through her students’ hard work and dedication.
“I’ve always told the students not to go home and ask for money, but instead I wanted them to earn it themselves,” Inman said. “Whether it’s raking leaves, or cleaning their homes – one year I had a little girl that actually cleaned out a cistern and this year I had a little boy who worked cattle – the majority of the money they earn themselves.”
A caring project jar is placed in Inman’s classroom and students drop their earnings into the jar leading up to an outing to Dry Ridge, where the students, Inman and chaperones go to shop for the children.
Although the students are buying for needy children, Inman said some of the children in her class are from low-income families themselves.
“Several of the students are on the receiving end of being sponsored at Christmas time,” Inman said. “I think they realize that, but yet it was wonderful to see them bringing in quarters and dimes to be able to help someone else. It made them feel so good to be able to give.”
Inman sets a goal of $450 and said very little of that comes from private donors.
The class bought for two children this year, a 1-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl. Inman said those chosen are always in desperate need and pricey toys and top of the line video game systems are never on their list of needs.
“We buy clothes, winter coats, boots, tennis shoes and this year we bought diapers,” Inman said. “But we always buy some toys that will be a surprise to the children.”
Inman said the students are given a budget and are split into groups when they go to shop and each group checks out separately to see how they managed their budget.
Once the shopping trip is complete, the students go across the street to McDonalds for lunch, where food is already waiting for them.
“It does my heart good to know that we are helping,” Inman said. “These kids are getting so many life lessons. They didn’t go and ask mom and dad for money, but instead they worked hard and earned money to help these children. When you watch them realize what they’re doing for someone else, it’s better than anything you could ever get out of a textbook.”