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— Students in the Decatur School’s gifted and talented classes are working with the Ozark Guidance Center to collect toys for children in need at Northside Elementary School as a part of the annual Christmas Assistance Program.

This is the seventh year Ozark Guidance has held the Christmas Assistance Program at Decatur’s elementary school, according to family resource coordinator Allie Elliot.

The program provides students and their siblings with Christmas presents - a winter outfit and toys - and their family with a Christmas dinner.

As of Friday, 43 families, with a total of 110 children, had signed up for the program, but that number will increase, Elliot said.

This year the Christmas Assistance Program doesn’t have the funding it has had in the past, Elliot said. A $1,000 grant fromWalmart will help pay for the winter outfits, but there isn’t enough money for toys.

Gifted and talented students in grades three through seven took on the toy drive as a class project, according to gifted and talented teacher Andrea VanSant.

VanSant said she was inspired by her family’s experience with adopting another family last Christmas.

“It was very rewarding. I think it helps the kids to think outside themselves,” she said.

Organizing the toy drive fits right in with the gifted and talented program by nurturing the students’ leadership skills and helping them learn to contribute to the community, VanSant explained.

The students will be placing the drop boxes and will be gathering the toys and wrapping them.

“I’ve got great kids and I’m excited to see them want to help and take this on,” VanSant said.

Community members are asked to help by donating new toys. Drop boxes will be located at the elementary and highschool offices as well as the Decatur State Bank, the Gallery Cafe and the Decatur General Store.

“I’m hoping people in the community that don’t have children of their own to buy for will donate, or maybe a Sunday school class will want to make this their project,” VanSant suggested.

Suggested gifts include popular characters like Dora the Explorer, Hannah Montana, Bratz, Littlest Pet Shop, Transformers, super hero action figures, as well as classic toys like baby dolls, matchbox cars, balls, craft kits, board games, and coloring books and crayons.

Small things such as stocking stuffers are inexpensive but can make a big difference, Elliot and VanSant said.

Donations of new clothes and money are also welcomed. The deadline for donations is Dec. 11. If anyone is interested in adopting a family in need, Elliot can also help them make the connection.

For more information, contact Allie Elliot at 752-7141 or Andrea VanSant at 752-3981.

News, Pages 3 on 11/18/2009

Print Headline: Gifted and Talented collecting toys for children’s Christmas

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