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Sharing the Season of Giving

Forestdale Elementary students collect toys for homeless shelter.

Students at Forestdale Elementary in Springfield are making sure their Giving Tree will help other children find gifts under their Christmas trees.

For the past three weeks, the Student Council Association has conducted its annual Giving Tree gift drive, collecting board games, toys and books that will be donated to the Mondloch Center, a homeless shelter on Route 1.

"The Mondloch Center is a place where homeless and needy people can stay," said SCA reporter Rikki Salazar, a sixth-grade student.

Students and their families donated several boxes worth of new toys, including an updated version of the classic board game "Operation" featuring characters from the popular movie "Shrek."

"We collected toys and games so when kids are staying at the shelter they have things to play with," said sixth-grader Lubna Qureshi, the SCA treasurer. "It's Christmas time. It's time to be giving."

In order to encourage their classmates to bring in gifts, the students would make posters and talk on the morning announcements, said vice president Anthony Oduro-Fosu, a sixth-grade student.

"We sent a letter home in the Thursday folder which goes home every week," said Katie Lepine, a sixth-grader and SCA president.

THE SCA MEMBERS said they were very proud of the generosity of their classmates.

"People have been very thoughtful by giving stuff to people who don't have much," said Aquila Dean, the SCA's only fifth-grade elected representative.

"We already get presents, so it's nice to give presents to people who might not get any," said sixth-grader Andrew Kwame, a committee chairperson.

The SCA sponsors, Michelle Weaver and Christella T-Rumberg, said the students are very proud of their accomplishment.

"This is a very diverse population in this school, so it's great that the kids were able to collect so much," Weaver said.

In the past, students have collected winter gear like hats, gloves, mittens and scarves for the Koninia Foundation, which helps needy families, Rumberg said.

"With all the hurricane victims that came to this area, the kids wanted to do something different," she said.

The Mondloch Center serves the Fairfax County area, Rumberg said, and if a Springfield family became homeless, they could stay there for up to a year.

"The kids wanted to do something to help other kids and they thought this would be a good thing to focus on for their holiday giving," she said.