SURREY Children from Surrey Elementary School chose to help the needy this holiday season instead of exchanging presents at their class Christmas parties.
"It feels awesome!" said Jordyn Clapper, a sixth grader.
Every child in the school contributed $5 toward purchasing Christmas presents for members of three homeless families in the Minot area.
Andrea Johnson/MDN - - Surrey school children shop for towels for a homeless family Thursday at Dakota Square Shopping Center.
A little more than $800 was raised, said school librarian Bonnie Pedersen. That money was pooled and children were split into groups when they went to shop for presents at Dakota Square Shopping Center on Dec. 7 and 8.
On Dec. 8, Jordyn was part of a group of eight fourth- through sixth-graders who were hunting for kitchen utensils and bath towels for a family of four, two parents and their 10- and 11-year-old children.
The children in the group discussed how they should do the shopping and decided that they would look for separate towels for the mother and the father in "boy" and "girl" colors and cool towels for each of the children.
Pedersen said this might not have been the way she'd have approached the gift shopping, but she left that decision up to the children.
"This is really a life lesson too," Pedersen said.
Adult chaperones asked the children to look at the prices on the items they were considering purchasing and to decide which was the best deal. Each group of shoppers was given $50 to spend and had to decide how to make those dollars stretch as far as possible while still buying the items on their lists.
"I think this is a great deal," Pedersen pointed out to the group and asked them to calculate how much they'd have left over if they bought washcloths for everyone in the family.
A staff member at Surrey Elementary is a member of the Minot Area Homeless Coalition and got the names of three needy families and what they would like to get for Christmas. Jordyn and fifth-grader Hunter Fuchs said they didn't know a lot about the family they were buying the Christmas presents for other than the items on their wish list. Both girls do know families that were affected by this summer's catastrophic flood and they knew the family they were helping might have lost a lot of their household goods.
Pedersen said children are benefiting from helping others during the holiday season.
"It's hard not to be selfish," said Pedersen, especially for children. But shopping for the homeless is a way to encourage them to think beyond their own needs and to learn to be generous.