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Today’s lesson: The spirit of Christmas

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Jack Moschgat would be happy with an iPod like his sister’s for Christmas. “More cats” would cheer the holiday for Skyler Schoen. But they and their first-grade classmates put such thoughts aside last week to spread the joy of the season with diners at Father Pat’s Kitchen.

“It’s a test to see if you can make people happy,” Skyler said.

The trip up Waverly Road from Waccamaw Elementary School to Precious Blood of Christ Catholic Church is officially a field trip. It’s the most popular trip her class takes, said Amy Kitowicz, a first-grade teacher who started taking her class to the community kitchen right after it opened in 2007. “It’s a huge deal,” she said. “I want them to understand the importance of giving back to the community.”

The class performed carols while the lunch crowd ate. For some, it was background music. For others, it was a chance to show a little Christmas spirit and clap to the beat of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Jarrod Ownbey accompanied the kids on guitar. He heard about the trip from his daughter Madison. “I said, ‘That’s awesome. I want to help.’ ” It turned out the keyboardist who usually accompanies the class couldn’t make it this year, so it was providential.

Other parents helped the students serve meals between sets. “I think I’m more excited than she is,” Leigh Boan said of her 6-year-old daughter Presleigh, which would be hard, since the kids not only belted out the tunes, but threw in some dance moves for good measure.

“We get into that,” Jack said.

“They really put their hearts in it,” said the Rev. Patrick Stenson, namesake of the kitchen that served its 100,000th meal last month. Having the students participate adds to the purpose of the kitchen. “There’s more community and they share in the blessing,” he said. “It’s more blessed to give than receive.”

Although that’s not in the first-grade curriculum, that’s the lesson Kitowicz wants to teach. “There are some values outside the classroom that are more important than the test,” she said.

The students began rehearsing when they returned from the Thanksgiving break. They made 100 beaded ornaments to hand out to people at the kitchen. Kitowicz is able to tie the project into the curriculum through writing and social studies. One focus is on community. “We build a community in the classroom,” she said, and look at other communities around them.

So if the test of community service is to make people happy, how did the class do? “I think they looked very happy,” Jack said.

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