Community members rally to support high school donation drive

Michael D. Smith
msmith@ardmoreite.com

Leading up to the final day of a donation drive at Ardmore High School earlier this month, a skeleton crew from Chauvin Aaron’s leadership class struggled to drum up support from the few remaining students and teachers on campus. With a coronavirus pandemic sending most of their peers to distance learning, student organizers worried that not enough Ardmore Tigers knew about the project.

Rows of bags and baskets in the Ardmore High School band room are full of gifts for area nursing home residents Friday, Dec. 18, 2020. Only one student in the leadership class, Lamaya Williams, was on campus that day to help deliver gifts to three nursing homes.

By last Friday, quarantines left only a single student from the class to help Aaron load the remaining bags and baskets of Christmas gifts onto a van bound for area nursing homes. The second Do Good December project looked drastically different from the previous year, but Aaron said a rally from area businesses, churches and individuals still helped the project make an impact.

“I believe when we do the right thing, no matter how bleak the outlook, it always works out when we work together,” Aaron said in an email.

The impact from this year’s project was comparable to 2019, when nearly 5,000 items were donated to the Community Children’s Center and area nursing homes. This year, the drive collected over 3,000 gifts and food items along with $2,500.

Canoe Brook Assisted Living residents excitedly open gifts collected by the Ardmore High School Do Good December project. The facility was among seven other area nursing homes and the children's shelter to receive items like blankets, lotions, stationary, electronics and other items.

Over half of the money raised came from the Christ Community Church, which already participates in community service projects throughout the year. Church outreach coordinator Becky Maytubby said she read about the class project’s setbacks in The Ardmoreite on Dec. 13  and was later contacted by congregation members who also read the newspaper story.

“I read it and was considering it, and had several people contact me and say ‘hey I think we should help with this financially,’” she said. 

Ardmore High School leadership class teacher Chauvin Aaron unloads a box of donated goods at Elmbrook Home Friday, Dec. 18, 2020. Deliveries to nursing homes, assisted living facilities and the chidren's center lasted three days.

After reaching out to Aaron to learn about what was needed, Maytubby said the church decided to donate $1,500 to the project from a dedicated fund specifically for charitable causes. Senior pastor Artie Farve said giving is an ethic talked about frequently with his congregation, with service.

“Most of our services end with that reminder, as well as a practical way of connecting them with information of how they can get involved,” he said.

Rows of bags and baskets in the Ardmore High School band room are full of gifts for area nursing home residents Friday, Dec. 18, 2020. Only one student in the leadership class, Lamaya Williams, was on campus that day to help deliver gifts to three nursing homes.

Trinity Baptist Church was another congregation that made a major donation to the project, according to Aaron. He also thanked Staples of Ardmore, University Center of Southern Oklahoma, YMCA of Ardmore, First National Bank of Ardmore, Dollar General of Ardmore, and the community at large in an email update to school administration.

Three days of gift deliveries to seven nursing homes and the children’s center started last Wednesday. By Friday, hundreds gifts reached the last of over 260 nursing home residents.

Staff at Elmwood Home carry in scores of gift bags donated by the Ardmore High School leadership class Friday, Dec. 18, 2020. The pandemic caused student donations on campus to drop compared to last year, but community members stepped in to supplement the project's total impact.

Jennifer McDonald, director of nurses at Elmbrook Home, said the gifts remind staff and residents that the community is thinking about them during the holiday season. “We’re their families when their family can’t be here. At Christmas time, to receive gifts like this from the community is fantastic,” McDonald said.

Senior Lamaya Williams was the lone student helping deliver gifts with Aaron but remained warm and upbeat on that cold and windy Friday. She said the pandemic really put a damper on keeping students motivated to give but was glad the community provided more than moral support.

“I was really grateful because I know that they care, and the fact that they showed that they care is really important to me,” Williams said.