Circle of Sharing Program Joins California Elementary Students and Kiwanis in Giving Away $3,000

Students representing the fifth grade class listening as California School District Superintendent Dwight Sanders talks about the Circle of Sharing, from left, are Sanders, Kain Henry, Morgan Kempfer, Sam Smith, Breanna Roberts, Travis Barker, Kiwanis Vice President Eugene Wickam and Kiwanis President Dr. Pete Kurowski.

Students representing the fifth grade class listening as California School District Superintendent Dwight Sanders talks about the Circle of Sharing, from left, are Sanders, Kain Henry, Morgan Kempfer, Sam Smith, Breanna Roberts, Travis Barker, Kiwanis Vice President Eugene Wickam and Kiwanis President Dr. Pete Kurowski. Photo by John Inman.

California Elementary School fifth graders presented Dr. Pete Kurowski, president of the California Kiwanis Club, with checks equaling up to $2,184.50 for the Circle of Sharing Project. Kurowski said the Kiwanis will add enough to make the total $3,000 so they can distribute the help to 30 school families who are in need.

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California School District Superintendent Dwight Sanders presented Kiwanis President Dr. Pete Kurowski with the money raised by California Elementary School fifth graders for Circle of Sharing which totaled out at $2,184.50 Tuesday, Dec. 13, at the elementary school gym. The Kiwanis then went and donated the rest of what it would take to reach $3,000 for students' families in need throughout the community.

This is the 20th Anniversary of the partnership between the school and organizations such as Kiwanis in giving to those in need through Circle of Sharing. Kiwanis has been involved for approximately 10 of those years.

"The Circle of Sharing is a powerful story of what can happen when people of good will, young and old, work together for a noble cause," Kurowski said. "Nearly 20 years ago Beth Jungmeyer, Beth Fennewald, Mrs. Su, and Vanda Harlan, fifth grade teachers inaugurated this tradition. Each year the young people raised a bit more money until finally it has mushroomed into the present outstanding revenue resolve. The children have raised money in a host of ways from making Christmas baskets, selling cookies baked and young people making money from odds-and-ends jobs and putting the proceeds into the project's treasury. The money then is turned into the hands of Kiwanis of California since Kiwanis works every Christmas season with helping children come Christmas time. Together this will provide enough money to help 30 different children and young adults from the California elementary, middle and high school system to have Christmas where an otherwise bleak holiday was in store. Also, our local Pamida Store has partnered with us in a most thoughtful manner in the distribution of the gift certificates."

Kelli Williams, a fifth grade teacher at California Elementary School, said the first year the Circle of Sharing had each student bring in one dollar that year with a total of $87 to share with local families. She added the totals accumulated among the circle of sharing project have drastically grown over the years with this year numbering $3,000. Classes involved include Williams' along with Angela Butts', Stephanie Zimmerman's, Janelle Weider's and Lindsey Porter's.

"Our fifth graders did a fabulous job this year of raising money," Williams said. "We introduce this project before Thanksgiving break so that the students can present it to their own families to start raising money. After returning from our fall break this year we already had a total reaching over $600. We had no doubt this was going to be a great year for giving back."

Williams said once the students started raising money and knew it was circling back into the community and school district, they began to see the “Circle” and realized what the project is all about.

"The selflessness and humble attitudes that evolve from this act of kindness are amazing," Williams said. "Raising over $2,000 is such an accomplishment for any class but most importantly the Circle of Sharing project is a team building activity for fifth graders and all competition is emptied. We raise this money as a team, donate it as leaders and gain a huge sense of accomplishment and gratitude by doing so."

To reward the students for their hard work, the Kiwanis brought over for the 100 children Burgers' sausage, cheese and crackers provided by Bob and Mary Keil. Kurowski said the Keil's provided five trays worth.

For their part the Kiwanis raised money through the circus they held along with the ham breakfasts at the Moniteau County Fair and Ozark Ham and Turkey Festival.

"Kiwanis means essentially 'be all that you can be" Kurowski said. "It is a worldwide organization which seeks to help children locally and worldwide. A number of the Kiwanians remember growing up when times were tough and Christmas gifts were sparse. They have a sympathy and empathy for people, especially young people, who find themselves between a rock and a hard place. As a child, I recall our family having to get food from a town dump in order to eke gathering food for the family. I recall how kind outsiders were to our large family in dropping off apples, oranges, candy and a turkey come Christmas time. It is so healthy for people to give and be ambassadors of good will."

Kurowski said partnering with the students was joyful, invigorating and rewarding.

"It is a great teachable moment for all involved," Kurowski said. "To do things that are so pro-actively good, right and salutary is the best way to adorn the gift of freedom. Freedom from the slavery of self to show love is what life is all about if one catches the drift of things. Working with the young people on a project that is so lovely, praiseworthy and of good report is one of the high lights of the year. Someone once said for a person to love a nation it must be lovely. This is a lovely project. If our country could engage in more such endeavors we would see an incremental rise in the positive nature of our culture."

Kurowski said in the coming year the Kiwanis are looking for fun ways to raise money for young people including hoping to have a "cow drop" in June and a "Moniteau County Has Talent" night in the future. Another fundraiser is the September golf tournament Tyler Davis of Edward Jones is organizing during the Ham and Turkey week in 2012.

"Along with our traditional fundraisers," Kurowski said, "we hope to do things that will bring a smile to people in the community. We were excited to have the privilege to buy and put up the Christmas lights along Oak Street this year and have bought some already next year to expand our efforts. We could always use a few more hands. Bringing cheer to young people and encouraging them to be good citizens is a couple of our goals."

Williams said the fifth grade team is honored to be a part of what she referred to as, "an amazing community and group of educators."

"Our students and parents work very hard to sell raffle tickets and get the community involved in this project," Williams added. "Our local business owners are also a huge part of the Circle of Sharing. We ask for donations each year for our raffle items and we are always astonished at the contributions that come in. Our district faculty and staff also contribute as a team each year to raise money during the final week of collections. Superintendent Dwight Sanders is a member of the Kiwanis Club and always strives to help make every project in this district a success and has given the Circle of Sharing huge recognition among our staff and community."

A big project for Kiwanis will be attempting to eliminate a disease in third world countries where newborn babies die a horrific death if their moms do not get a tetanus shot. In the last 20 years Kiwanis was able to be a key partner in wiping out iodine deficiency disorder, now they are focusing on this new project. Kiwanis meets Monday evenings at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, California, at 6 p.m. Meeting last one hour and Kurowski said they have a delicious homemade meal with laughter and knowledge of what the needs are in the community. For more information, call Kurowski at 573-796-2735 or Gene Wickam at 573-680-2086 or go to www.kiwanis.org for more information.

"Anyone who has ever been fortunate to work with our local Kiwanis Club knows that the dedication and time these men devote to our community is incredible," Williams said. "We are so blessed to have the opportunity to associate the Kiwanis Club with our Circle of Sharing Project and we appreciate all of the support and help they have provided us. For as long as California Elementary has a fifth grade class there will be Circle of Sharing project. Each year the teachers set a new goal for us as well as our new class. Teaching our students to give back to our community is our ultimate goal each year. Over the past two years we have been amazed at how our totals have dramatically increased and we will continue to have high hopes for future years, yet we know the lesson we share is just as important as the gift and we hope to instill a personal Circle of Sharing within each of our students."

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