Organizations across Faulkner County were gifted with dozens of needed items during Ida Burns Elementary's annual Giving Trees ceremony Tuesday.
Every year, each grade level adopts and collects items for a cause.
This year, kindergarten chose the Faulkner County Humane Society, first grade chose Haven House, second grade selected United Way and Conway Regional Medical Center to hand out blessing bags, third grade chose the Conway Animal Welfare Unit, fourth grade picked Conway Cradle Care and the school's specialty teachers selected the Bethlehem House.
"We really try to keep it local because we really want to impact our community," said Ida Burn's Nicole Loftis, who spearheads Giving Trees.
She said when she notifies the groups that they've been chosen they are "beyond moved most of the time," realizing that the students, who may face their own challenges, are so eager to give to those in need.
Deb Petersen from the humane society said the biggest problem they have this time of year is providing enough food for pets. Not having to close the pantry because donations are slim is always a fear.
She said the pantry was forced to close in November and by the time they reopened the beginning of December, had around 60 families in need of items.
"These aren't people who have pets and aren't being responsible owners," Petersen said. "These are people who fell on hard times, senior citizens who can't give up their pets, who really need that for their social interaction. And it is the difference between buying medication or food for some of these people."
She said members of the organization were touched by the donations from Ida Burns and that the kindergarten class chose to help them.
"We were concerned we'd have to close again because donations are down this time of year, but after what we have here today, we'll definitely be able to keep it open in January," Petersen said.
Loftis said Giving Trees originally began as Wishing Trees at the school.
"The students had to come up with a wish that didn't cost anything," she said.
Loftis said some of the wishes were touching and included wishing a home for every dog or person and food for people.
Now, she said, children collect items to help those wishes come true.
Loftis said the movement behind the Giving Trees is to create a caring heart in students and try to show them that it's important to make wishes because that's where change occurs when they start taking notice of the world around them.
"But, we have to go one step further and put it into action, so what are we going to do about it," she said.
Loftis said most of the students know the true meaning of Christmas and what it means to give. And while those lessons start at home, at Ida Burns, faculty and staff try to continue building on the idea.
"We really try very hard to not only teach them academics but the character piece as well," she said.
One aspect of the collection event that always "gets her," Loftis said, is how much the groups bring in.
"These kids, they never cease to amaze me," she said.