Tomoka Elementary students raised $375 for Light The Way and Family Renew.
After a year of hard work creating a school store to help fundraise for local charities, fifth grade students at Tomoka Elementary were able to witness the fruit of their hard work as checks were presented to the two charities the classes chose at the school's multipurpose room on Friday, Oct. 20.
The Tomoka Trading Post was started last year by Tomoka Elementary fourth grade gifted teacher Jenna Pender and Kacie Meredith, who also taught fourth grade at the time. They wanted to teach their students a way to help their neighborhood, and after Hurricane Matthew, they realized it was the right time.
“They started to become more aware of social issues and so we came up with the idea of starting a school store with the funds to go to charity," Pender said.
The Tomoka Trading Post is run entirely by the kids, from the budget to picking out what items they should sell. Pender said the students enjoy it and it helps to give them a sense of finance. It's open on Thursdays before and after school.
The school store raised a total of $775 last year. Pender said the school kept some money to help restock for this year and the rest was divided between the two charities the classes picked: Family Renew, which helps local homeless families have a place to live, and Light The Way, which helps cancer patients with their everyday needs, from clothing, food and bills to pets that could be left homeless if their owner dies from the disease.
Family Renew Development Director Denise Kelly and Light The Way Director Angela Heaster were each presented with a $375 check.
For Kelly, the donation comes at a great time. Five of the apartments the organization utilizes for homeless families in Daytona Beach were heavily damaged by flooding due to Hurricane Irma. The money will go toward repairs so that the families may move back in. Seeing the faces of the kids who helped fundraise gave her goose bumps, Kelly said.
“I know how hard it is to raise $375 and just that these kids have the heart to do it, it means a lot to our kids at Family Renew when they know that a group from school raised for them — that other kids care about them," Kelly said.
Heaster, who is a Tomoka Elementary alumna, said this was the first time that a group of kids has been involved in Light The Way. She said it was "extra special" to her since her organization was started after her longtime friend, Malka Altman, died in 2014.
“This was her passion, and today she’s smiling down because this right here, this sealed it for me," Heaster said. "I mean, it was so meaningful.”
This year's fourth graders are continuing with the Tomoka Trading Post. Next year, they'll also help two more charities.
“I wanted them to see their hard work go to the right person," Pender said.