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Overton Elementary students get a Christmas surprise

By Rebecca Rider

For the Salisbury Post

SALISBURY  — It was the last day of school before winter break, and students at Overton Elementary School sat cross-legged on the floor dressed in their pajamas.

They clutched paper bags topped with colorful tissue paper and struggled to sit still, half-jumping up or wiggling in place. When Principal Candice Austin gave the OK, the kids tore open the bags and soft gray sweatshirts tumbled out.

This is the second year the staff at Overton Elementary gave gifts to students. Last year, each student received a pair of sturdy shoes in their size. This year, it was sweatshirts to keep away the cold.

The gifts were the brainchild of Fran Lescoe, Communities in Schools site coordinator. In addition to helping students succeed in school, Lescoe said the agency gives out food and clothes.

“I give away sweatshirts all the time,” she said. “So obviously, this was a big need.”

As with last year’s Christmas gift of shoes, this year Lescoe went around and got the shirt size of each and every student. Then she placed the order for the sweatshirts.

Like other area elementary schools, Overton requires students to wear uniforms, and uniform code specifies that sweatshirts can’t have a hood or a logo. According to Lescoe, shirts like that can be hard to track down.

“Our kids, with our population, have a hard time finding something to wear,” she said.

The shirts were funded by an anonymous donor, but the surprise was a labor of love by Lescoe and the staff at Overton. Teacher assistants helped cut out name tags, and Lescoe wrote the name of each student on his or her own bag. Then she packed them – much of that done at home, on her own time.

“I was just in a room – rolling, stuffing, rolling stuffing,” she said with a laugh.

“This is kind of a personal challenge she sets out to conquer,” Austin said of the gifts.

But the giveaway also allows staff members to build stronger relationships with students, and it helps students who may lack cold-weather clothing.

“It provides them with something they do need at school,” Austin said. “Sometimes they don’t always have warm clothing to wear to school.”

For Overton, the gift-giving is a way to end the calendar year with a bang. Staff and students were invited to wear pajamas to school Friday, and students were serenaded by the Knox Middle School band. Volunteers also read “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and students were treated to cookies and hot chocolate.

But the crowning moment was seeing the smiles on students’ faces.

“It was amazing,” Lescoe said. “It was so much fun.”



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