Seneca Valley middle school students got their Christmas spirit off to a good start last Thursday by visiting the residents at the Passavant Retirement Center in Zelienople.
About 50 seventh graders from the Tiger Team, along with about 40 parents and teachers, gave residents homemade cards, decorations and small gifts.
"We usually go to spread cheer to the residents, but ultimately when the kids see the glow on the faces of the residents they come out feeling good too," said Ken Kotula, a seventh-grade math teacher who is part of the Tiger Team.
The Tiger Team is one of the groups the more than 600 pupils are split into when they reach seventh grade. The pupils in each group, named for an animal, share the same classes and teachers throughout the year.
Mr. Kotula said the teams each complete a volunteer community service project at different times of the year. The Tiger Team has been visiting the Passavant Retirement Center in Zelienople for the last four or five years Mr. Kotula has been part of it.
The annual Christmas visit has become so meaningful to some that former Tiger Team members now in eighth grade tagged along for the visit this year.
He said this year the pupils spontaneously started singing Christmas carols with the residents sparking a sing-along that lasted through at least 10 carols. The youngsters came to school the next day talking about bringing sheet music to next year's visit, he said.
Mr. Kotula said they were particularly touched to see that some of the residents had saved the decorations brought by pupils last year and had them on their doors again this Christmas.
The youngsters also donated about 1,000 small gifts of games, crossword puzzles, perfume, jewelry and other items that were given to the residents.
Mr. Kotula said the students felt so good about their visit that they are already talking about going back at Easter.
"If nothing more it teaches them a good life lesson and gets them more involved with volunteering," he said.
Laure Cioffi, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org