TLCS marks 25 years of Work-a-Thon

Photo by Jenny Kirk True Light Christian School students (from left) Mauer Leysen and Vara Youngsma had the opportunity to sit beside resident Margaret Rewerts during a game of Candy Corn Bingo on Thursday at Hill Street Place. A dozen residents interacted with the eight second-graders as part of the school’s outreach mission.

MARSHALL — New friendships were developed over games of Candy Corn Bingo on Thursday as second graders from True Light Christian School interacted with Hill Street Place residents as part of the school’s 25th annual Work-a-Thon effort.

“It’s about developing relationships,” TLCS teacher Tricia Foster said. “We just feel that service is a really important piece of life and giving back — just being generous with our time, our talents and the gifts that God has given us — so that’s what we try and do.”

The eight second-grade students — Kyper Brownlee, Ben Buss, Kyra Bailey, Anthony Enga, Mauer Leysen, Vara Youngsma, Lydia Falde and Kannon Greenhoff — sat amongst a dozen residents to play the game.

“It was fun,” Leysen said. “I like it a lot.”

Leysen also had good things to say about his new friend, Margaret Rewerts, from Hill Street.

“She’s really nice,” Leysen said.

Rewerts said she thoroughly enjoyed the engagement with the students — especially with Leysen and Youngsma, who she sat beside.

“It’s always fun being with children,” Rewerts said. “It reminds you of how quickly the years go by and that you were once in second grade but here you are, knocking on a big number next July if I survive. We enjoy the music, too, when they come and sing to us.”

Foster said the school-wide Work-a-Thon effort has changed over the course of time.

“I don’t know what we did when we first started, but for many years, the kindergarten through third grade used to go and do a program and they’d go and visit, usually at the (Marshall Adult Community Center),” she said. “I think we also did that at Boulder (Estates) a couple of times. Then the older kids would come and play bingo and do some other things. They’d also do a raking project, where they’d find people in town who needed help raking their leaves in the fall. We’d take a Saturday and go help do that.”

Foster added that since the school doesn’t do many fundraisers, the service projects provide an opportunity to raise funds.

“We send out letters to family and friends to encourage them to donate money on behalf of the school as kind of a donation for when we go out and help,” Foster said. “The last few years, we’ve been trying to build relationships more. So instead of doing a program last year, the kids went over like four times to the senior center and made buddies. They really got to know the people there.”

Foster said many of the senior citizens from the Adult Community Center also visited the school.

“The last two years in the spring, they’d come to our school,” she said. “The seniors got to see (the students’) classroom and sit in their desks. That piece has been super fun, too.”

This year marks the first time that the second-graders came to Hill Street Place.

“It was nice they got to make friends,” Foster said. “Hopefully we can do this again next year, so they can build good relationships.”

Along with Rewerts, Youngsma sat next to Hill Street resident June Pool.

“I had fun,” Youngsma said. “I won trail mix.”

Rewerts said she wonders what lies ahead for the children in their future.

“It can be hard sometimes for kids,” she said. “Things change so much. You think you have it all figured out and pretty soon, it’s all different.”

Sometimes, change can be a good thing. When raking leaves didn’t work out so well last year due to the weather, True Light students and staff went to Plan B.

“They went in the spring instead and did some clean-up at the cemetery,” Foster said. “This year, we decided to have the older kids and their families go and help at Esther’s Kitchen. That’s for the fifth- through eighth-grade students and it’s spaced out over the course of the whole year. We wanted to spread it out over time, so they have help the whole year.”

Rewerts said people should appreciate children, even if they sometimes get noisy.

“People get a little fussed up when kids are noisy in church, but I say, ‘Thank Goodness we have noise,'” she said. “If it was just old people, you’d just hear snoring and moaning or something. It’s kids that keep you alive.”

While it’s not part of the Work-a-Thon mission, the True Light students typically go to different places in the community during Christmastime. Rewerts said December is a special month for senior citizens as well.

“We can be like little kids again,” she said.