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Holiday spirit: Local educators give beyond the classroom

January 4, 2011 

Often, we read about holiday challenges and woes. Sometimes, however, there is a story so rich and wonderful, it is worth sharing with everyone as living testimony of the spirit of giving that defines Beaufort County.

And it all began with a pair of pajamas.

On the last day of school for December, the data specialist at Shell Point Elementary, Tammy Crooks, said, "A child approached me today because it was pajama day (a la 'The Polar Express'), and he wanted to call home."

The child lived with his grandma and grandpa. He called Grandma, but she had no transportation to bring his PJs to school. He really wanted to be like the rest of the kids. Tammy spoke to the grandmother and told her she would make sure he got some PJs to wear.

"The grandmother asked about our giving tree," Tammy said. "That is where we pick a child's name and buy them a shirt, pair of pants and a toy for Christmas. Somehow this child had slipped through the cracks and didn't get on our tree. I told her I would check on it."

Tammy went to a teacher who has a child about the same size and lives just around the corner from the school. While Tammy watched the class, the teacher jumped in her car and brought the child a pair of pajamas.

"When I delivered the PJ's, Tammy said, "I found out from his teacher that his family had not had electricity for two days. He put the pajamas on. They were a little small, but he grinned from ear to ear.

"I asked the guidance counselor why his name wasn't on the Giving Tree. Surprised, she realized he slipped through the cracks. She contacted our Parent-Teacher Organization, thinking maybe that a church might help."

Turns out the PTO had intended to adopted a family this year, but with the hustle and bustle of things, it had not happened. So, the family was adopted. The PTO paid the electric bill and gave a gift certificate for groceries and necessities. The Shell Point librarian also got into the spirit: She had heard Tammy and some of the teachers talking and donated some new toys for the little boy.

"When the guidance counselor asked him what he wanted for Christmas, the little boy said a hug from Santa," Tammy said. "We have a great relationship with the Burton Fire Department. They have a fireman dressed like Santa ride on the fire truck through neighborhoods in the evenings. Our bookkeeper called the fire department.

"They were not planning to come to this boy's area, but after hearing the story, Nichole Bright said they would make a special trip to his house so Santa could give him a hug."

And so it came to be that a child knew the true meaning of Christmas, thanks to folks in Beaufort County who reached beyond a forgotten pair of pajamas to care for the whole child.

Because these educators really listened beyond words to serve a little boy's needs, the spirit of giving lives on.

Valerie Truesdale is superintendent of Beaufort County Schools.

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