'Woo-Mart' lets Wooster Elementary students shop for food and clothes at no cost
It's the time of year for salvation army kettles, angel trees and ugly sweater parties.
You can find all three at most busy shopping centers, but a trip up Highway 25 to Wooster Elementary in the Greenbrier School District at this time of year and you unexpectedly find that same kind of spirit.
The city has above-average poverty, but the school has tailored an angel tree program that shows they have above-average holiday spirit.
School staff celebrated spirit day with holiday sweaters and a weekly reading. The K-5th grade students joined in the fun proudly declaring they and their school are the best around.
But among the smiling young faces are more than a few kids with families facing hard times.
“Some of these kids are not going to have a Christmas without help from our community and from our students and staff here,” said Millie Engler, counselor at the school as she stood next to an “angel tree” on the wall.
That tree is saving Christmas for many of the kids in the district.
“We started out with like 58 students or siblings, younger siblings that were not in school,” Engler said. “Each student had about five to six tags, depending on whether they needed a coat or not.”
In just a couple days, many of the ornaments — each representing a child — flew off the tree.
It's a response you'd expect at a busy mall angel tree, but not a tree at a small-town school.
“We all in our district have this priority for our kiddos,” said Amber Brantley, the first-year principal at Wooster. “I hope that's like that at other places as well because kiddos are the reason why we're here every day.”
And the giving here goes on every day. The school maintains a huge food pantry and donation center called “Woo-Mart.” It is stacked floor to ceiling with canned foods, cereal and donated clothes. The school has about 300 kids enrolled. The city has a little more than 1,000 people living there, but the “Woo-Mart” looks like a big city stocked the shelves.
“I just felt so blessed to be part of a school that truly cared about the whole child,” said Brantley.
That’s help for the whole child and the whole community.
“Our community is full of love and support for our kiddos and they live our mission of whatever it takes with us.” Engler said.