Annual service project puts kindergarten class to work

Michael D. Smith
The Oak Hall Episcopal School class of Jimmie Wallis stands Wednesday with the items collected for the Hope Pregnancy Center. Rather than accept donated items, Wallis made students earn donations through service projects.

Fundraisers and donation drives are another part of every school year tradition. Students in all grade levels learn that giving to others is a fundamental part of society and that often takes the form of car washes, candy bars or lemonade.

One kindergarten teacher at Oak Hall Episcopal School has taken an annual service project and added a new caveat. These young students couldn’t just collect donations. They had to work for them.

“So they had to visit with their parents and their family to determine what project they would do to earn money,” said kindergarten teacher Jimmie Wallis on Wednesday.

Oak Hall Episcopal School kindergarten students finish loading donations into a vehicle Wednesday. The items for newborns were collected as part of an annual service project for teacher Jimmie Wallis's class.

Her class’s annual service project is in lieu of a traditional class Christmas party in an effort to build a sense of character in her young students. She said past projects have included packing blessing bags for the homeless, building diaper bags for new moms and even vacuuming out vehicles to raise money. 

This year her class would be giving to the Hope Pregnancy Center, an organization already close to Wallis because of their work providing resources to new mothers. While she knows many projects target other very deserving causes, Wallis believes that newborns are often overlooked at this time of year.

And in a year of multiple setbacks for nonprofit organizations, every donation can help no matter who is donating them.

Members of the Oak Hall Episcopal School kindergarten class of Jimmie Wallis collectively push an empty cart back into the school Wednesday. Students collected items for a service project this month and even helped load them into a vehicle.

Lisa Tolbert with the Hope Pregnancy Center said the donations will in turn go a long way to help new mothers earn items for their children. She said clients can earn “baby bucks” by watching educational videos that can be spent on childcare items, including those donated by Wallis’s class.

So students set out to earn money. Sutton Ray and Matthew Martens both said chores inside and outside of the house earned them some donations. Alice Bancroft thought to sell coffee to her neighbors, while Laila Fields and Evi Smith decided to make and sell baked goods to friends and family. 

“And I made the coffee,” interjected Bancroft during a later photo.

Oak Hall Episcopal School teacher Jimmie Wallis receives assistance from members of her kindergarten class Wednesday push a cart of donations. The students collected items and raised money for the Hope Pregnancy Center this month.

In total, the drive collected multiple blankets, diapers, dolls, and other items for newborns and new moms along with over $180 in cash to use for other items. While Wallis could not put a value to what the drive collected, she said it will likely go further than a previous service project to the center.

“We want to adopt the Hope Pregnancy Center because I think that’s probably one of [the] best areas that we can give because we’re children,” she said.

The drive also had a personal connection for both Wallis and Tolbert this year. Wallis taught all four of Tolbert’s children as kindergartners and the women have remained close over the years. After the recent passing of Tolbert’s father, Wallis wanted to do something in honor of her friend’s late parents.

“We love the school, it’s very dear to my family, and to know that they thought enough of my parents to do this in their memory is just the sweetest blessing,” Tolbert said.

This story was updated Friday, Dec. 18 at to clarify how Hope Pregnancy Center awards childcare items.