Cowlishaw Cares Club aims to instill lifelong love of service
By Michelle Linn-Gust For The Sun January 14, 2013 1:14PM
Amyah Avant, second from right and Alivia Avant, far right, fill baggies with cereal for the Brown Bag lunch program for PADS as part of the Cowlishaw Cares club on Friday, January 11, 2013. The Club gets students get together once a month to do a service project for non-profit agencies in the local area | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
To learn more
To read about future Cowlishaw Cares Club events, visit http://cowlishaw.ipsd.org/News.aspx?id=47433
To have Kathy Schank speak at a school about family-friendly service projects or to offer a donation of non-perishable food items to PADS, contact her at Kathy@kidsmatter2us.org or 630-567-6981 (KidsMatter Community Resource Line)
Updated: February 17, 2013 6:06AM
Kathy Schank has been offering up challenges to children all over the area, including District 204’s Cowlishaw Elementary School. Schank, the community outreach coordinator for KidsMatter, will bring a dog leash and ask which of the students likes dogs. She’ll then hand the leash to that student and tell him that his challenge is to walk the family’s dog or offer to walk a neighbor’s dog.
She’ll pull out a cake mix and ask which students like to bake. When one offers, she will tell that student to bake cupcakes for a neighbor or friend.
The purpose of this exercise, one that students are taking on willingly, is to teach even the youngest child that he or she can give back and help others.
“This is one of my most favorite parts of my job,” Schank said of working with such young kids on giving back. “They are the most willing, and the enthusiasm is contagious. They realize they can use the gifts that they have and suddenly they are capable of being a community contributor.”
On Friday, Schank was at Cowlishaw to help the Cowlishaw Cares Club stuff about 30 snack bags for DuPage PADS. The kids worked in an assembly line to fill the bags with snack foods like pretzels, dried fruit, candy, baked snacks and trail mix. The students also created “thinking of you” cards. Each of the bags will be given to people who use PADS and have no access to a pantry during the day and need non-perishable foods.
“The mission of our club is, ‘What can we do for you?’” said Robin Halicki, a fourth-grade teacher who created the club with fellow Cowlishaw teachers Michelle Hebenstreit and Becky Trybus.
While there have been several incarnations of a club activity (like a school newspaper), this one was created to teach the students, all fourth- and fifth-graders, something they can do without having to collect money. They turned to KidsMatter for help with ideas in making the club work. Schank came in with her presentation and was with the kids as they stuffed the bags.
“There are so many physical things kids can do,” Halicki said.
In December, they created hats and scarves and gave those, along with gloves and candy, to clients of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“The kids were so excited,” said Halicki of the no-sew project. They also created cards to give with the gift bags.
“They were putting a lot of care into what they were doing to make it good for someone else,” said Trybus who teaches first grade.
They also decorated holiday cookies for Almost Home, a center that gives transitional critical care to medically fragile children.
While the club takes place once a month in the morning before school starts, it’s an opportunity for the kids to work together and do things they don’t get to do during regular school hours. Fourth- and fifth-graders are mixed together, and the boys work with the girls.
“The kids love to draw, and they don’t have the opportunity during the school day for arts and crafts,” Halicki said.
Not only do the kids enjoy it but the parents are seeing the results of the activities as well.
“It’s been wonderful to hear the feedback from parents of what they are doing at home,” said Trybus who teaches first grade.
Schank also gave each student a book they were then instructed could be read to a child while a parent is cooking dinner or shared in another way. The books were donated to KidsMatter by Barnes & Noble and are part of the Reading Matters to KidsMatter program.
The books are used as a way to get students involved helping others as well.
“The kids realize there are lot of needy people out there, and they can pay it forward,” Halicki said.
“It’s another avenue to instill lifelong love of service,” Schank said.