Giving back

Four members of the team with the Blessing Box.

Team members sharing the books with the younger children.

Trojan team members show off the blankets they made.

Some team members at Hospice with two workers from SOMC and their teacher, Alison Tennant (second from right).

Who says kids can’t do big projects?

Well, some fifth graders at Portsmouth Elementary School have been proving naysayers wrong. They’ve been working hard this year, not necessarily just on their schoolwork, but on projects for others, not themselves.

The super fifth graders have became a group that has named themselves the Trojans Give Back Team. Along with their teacher, Alison Tennant, several Portsmouth fifth graders started the school year wanting to do something to thank people or do something for someone who might need help in some way. With that goal in mind, the group has grown and has been doing wonders in the community.

“We have about 40 kids on the team. They volunteer to give up their recess time to be part of the team during the school day so they can participate and they can do it during school,” Tennant explains. “Every fifth grader who wants to can be involved.

“When it started off, we were just going to do one thing. I wanted to instill in the kids that you don’t’ have to have a lot to help out. That was kind of my mentality: ‘I can take, but I don’t have to do anything in return.’ They wanted to do things in return,” Tennant says.

“We started it kind of small. We started thinking of ideas, and we had a meeting just to see. Honestly, from there, my kids started coming up with all these great ideas. I thought, ‘we can’t do them all at once,’ so we’d pick a project a month. Our first project was the blessing box. We did it schoolwide, and that was in October, and we collected cans, and little shampoo bottles and soaps, and filled the blessing box.”

Tennant then took to Facebook and the team challenged Wheelersburg and Sciotoville Community School. They accepted the challenge. Wheelersburg fifth grade took the blessing box for the month of November, Sciotoville did the box in December and Wheelersburg fourth grade continued with January to keep it going.

“Our next project in November, I went to DonorsChoose. DonorsChoose is a website for educators and you can go online, and if there’s something you need for your classroom, you can get people to donate money,” Tennant says. “ is a nonprofit organization that allows individuals to donate directly to public school classroom projects. They donate money for your project. You post a little thing about your project and what you want to do, you share pictures, and I’ve had people I’ve never met from across the country who have donated for my entire project.

“So, for November, I requested funds and we made no-sew blankets for the homeless, and we collected blankets for the Cancer Center. We collected over 100 blankets, and then we (the kids) made about 35. Again, they gave up their recesses and made the blankets. Our resource officer, Officer Davis, took a couple of teachers and me to tent city to deliver blankets, we went under the bridge to Tracy Park and we delivered blankets to people around town. We also took a bus and delivered blankets to the Cancer Center, and the kids got to go in and actually hand the blankets to patients receiving treatment. They really enjoyed that,” Tennant says.

In December, the children made Christmas ornaments. Then, along with blankets they had, they delivered them to nursing home patients and sang Christmas carols. Tennant says the children were so good, they handed out the ornaments and they wrapped the blankets around the people.

“In January, we chose Hospice. We got all kinds of donations and people donated money. Some people brought in chips and candy, cookies and coloring books. We made little bags with crayons, coloring books, puzzles and bottled water for kids who are visiting there at Hospice. We also made cotton candy along with [teachers] Kelsey McFarland and Tiffany Newsome who helped my husband and me make the cotton candy. I had cotton candy hanging from the ceiling, but that’s how we made the $500,” Tennant says. “We also sponsored a hat day, where the kids could pay a dollar and wear a hat.” She says Principal Beth Born is very supportive of the projects, and the teachers have gotten in on the act, paying a dollar so that they can wear jeans for a day. Every project Tennant’s wanted to do, Born has been gung-ho and let her go ahead and do it.

In February, Tennant went to DonorsChoose again and got money for books, and the children got donations of books. They buddied up with children in pre-school, first and second grade, and gave more than 175 new books. Tennant’s students then sat down with the younger students as buddies and read the books and then gave the books to the younger ones.

With 40 students in the group and the entire fifth grade welcome to join, taking all the children on a trip to deliver items is sometimes a challenge. Tennant says she tries to take the whole team to deliver items, but when that is not possible, she draws names to make it fair for everyone. Tennant also cited McFarland, Newsome and April Clemmons for the help those teachers provided the group.

So what will the team do in March? “We like the blessing box, and we have the Steven Hunter Foundation, they do our power packs. There are kids, some who are too shy or embarrassed to take those packs, so we have actually had a blessing box put on our campus. It will be located by the old gymnasium. It’s going up now, and we are dedicating it. There will be a plaque for Steven Hunter and #Rak (Random Acts of Kindness), and there’s a lady out of Ashland who lost her son, and it’s in memory of him as well,” Tennant says.

The fifth graders of the Trojans Give Back Team deserve thanks for all they’ve been doing, which they do without expecting anything in return. And special recognition is due Tennant, who has devoted herself, her time and her energy for something the fifth graders will not soon forget.

Reach Kimberly Jenkins at 740-353-3101 ext. 1928