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52 Weeks of Giving: Learning the gift of giving
Program at library teaches kids the value of good deeds
W Library 52 weeks
Brittney, right, and her mom, Gwen, attach notes to candy canes for National Candy Cane Day as part of the Statesboro Regional Library's 52 Weeks of Giving program. 52 Weeks of Giving is a weekly service project opportunity for kids and adults of all ages to give back to the community. The candy canes were delivered to postal workers to say "thank you" for working so hard during the recent holidays. - photo by JULIE LAVENDER/Special

Every Friday afternoon at 4, kids and adults of all ages gather at the Statesboro Library for one purpose: to do a good deed. The event is called “52 Weeks of Giving” and has been making a positive impact on the community since its inception in last November.  

Participants of the program have collected socks for orphans and seniors, made and delivered chili to firefighters, written sympathy notes to the family of Staff Sgt. Chester McBride (a Statesboro native killed in a December suicide bombing in Afghanistan), attached notes to candy canes on National Candy Cane Day and delivered them to post office employees who had worked long hours over the holidays and completed many other service projects for the community.

New to the library, the program is the brain-child of Cindy Hatchell, head of Youth Services for the Statesboro-Bulloch County Library. Hatchell is almost as new to the local library as her program is, though she is not new to the library world.

Hatchell and a co-worker started the “52 Weeks of Giving” program when both were employed at the Middlesboro-Bell County Library in Kentucky about five years ago. The program was expected to last one year. But three years later, “Good Morning America” and Disney, the parent company of ABC News, chose the small group of children and adults as winners of a “Hometown Celebration” and rewarded them with a magical party complete with Disney characters, a dance party and lots of food and treats.

While the program continues in Kentucky, Hatchell relocated to Statesboro and initiated the acts of kindness opportunity here. Also, her co-worker moved to Maine and started a “52 Weeks of Giving” group there, too. So, a small idea of giving back to a former mining community in Kentucky much in need has now blossomed and grown into three states.

“Don’t let anyone be nicer than you – that’s our motto,” Hatchell said about the program. “It’s something I used to say to my kids before they left for school.

“I started the program because I wanted my own children to learn to give back. Even though we lived in a small community, I wanted to teach them that they could make a difference.

“To serve others gives kids a broader view of the world around them. Opens their eyes. We don’t ‘do good’ for anything in return.”

Two more newcomers to Statesboro, Julie and Jackson, joined the community servants for the first time recently. Mom Julie said, “I just thought it would be something fun to do with my boys. The more you do for other people, well, it just benefits you the most.

“It might be a little act for you. But for someone else that day, it could be more than we could imagine.”

Her 13-year-old son Jackson enjoyed working on the candy cane project to recognize postal workers that day and said: “This is good. People don’t tell them they are important or thank them. People should just do nice things for each other.”

Just turned 10-year-old Brittney was quick to respond that her favorite act of kindness opportunity thus far was the “Socks for Courtney.”

Former Mill Creek Elementary student Courtney Kemp was just 9 when she passed away from an undiagnosed heart condition.

Alneata Kemp, Courtney’s mom, wept openly when she learned that her daughter continued to touch lives, three-and-a-half years after her passing.

The service project prepares and decorates boxes to collect socks for Courtney’s mom to donate to needy children or hospice patients or senior citizens.

“Some children aren’t as fortunate as me, and it makes me feel good to do something for someone else,” Brittney said about those that would receive donated socks.

Alneata Kemp, her husband David, dauthters Tyanna, now 19, and Lauren, now 9, miss their sweet Courtney every day.

“It’s a journey,” Alneata Kemp said. “Some days are better than others. It was just so sudden. Just breathtaking.”

Courtney exhibited symptoms only two weeks before passing. Her mom said she adored life and had a beautiful smile.

“And she loved socks,” Alneata Kemp said. “Crazy socks, any kind of socks. In fact, two weeks after Courtney died, her mom found a bag of socks she’d purchased for Courtney’s birthday. And that’s how the project Socks for Courtney began.

“When Courtney died, we were like Humpty Dumpty. We were so broken. Something as simple as socks saved our family, mended our hearts.”

And with help from additional socks collected by the participants of 52 Weeks of Giving, the Kemps have donated a multitude of socks to hospitalized children, orphans in Haiti and Peru, students locally and in surrounding counties during back to school events, hospice patients and senior citizens and more.

“The more we get out and we cover feet, it’s just something miraculous that happens to us,” said Alneata.

Socks, candy canes, chili, sympathy notes – minute but miraculous to the giver and the receiver. Thanks to an acts of kindness program started by the local library, kids are receiving the gift of giving and local recipients are the benefactors every Friday at 4.

For more information, contact Cindy Hatchell at (912) 764-1344 or cindyh@strl.info.

 

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