After-school special

Students in FSSD program help spread holiday joy with giving projects

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The kids participating in Franklin Special School District’s MAC program are getting into the holiday spirit a little early this year by doing projects centered on giving.

MAC is a before- and after-school program for K-8 students. For the past 15 years, the district has been partnering with the nonprofit Feed America First to provide food boxes to impoverished families in the Franklin area just in time for Thanksgiving.

Tom Henry, founder of Feed America First, said this idea originated with a Brentwood Middle School librarian a decade and a half ago.

“She was very concerned with the fact that kids in an affluent community didn’t realize that they only lived 15 minutes from poverty in downtown Franklin,” Henry said.

In its first year, this project was organized around the goal of feeding 100 families and ended up feeding 250. This year, that number is up to 615.

Amanda Parks, MAC director for the district, learned about the project when she joined the district six years ago and is delighted to see it grow.

Last week, before handing out boxes of food to those in need, she enlisted the help of the Centennial High School baseball and football teams to help unload a truck full of food. Football coach Matt Kriesky said this is the second year the teams have helped with this project and that for many of the players, it comes full circle since most came from FSSD and, perhaps, some were in the MAC program.

The boxes contained some Thanksgiving essentials, such as green beans and cranberry sauce, but they also contained staples such as rice, mac and cheese, oatmeal and soup.

“This isn’t intended just to provide them the green bean casserole and the mashed potatoes,” Henry said. “It’s intended to … provide more than one meal.”

Bethlehem United Methodist Church also helped with the project. When church members learned about the project, they organized 125 volunteers to sort through the food and pack the boxes for distribution. They also donated money so that a turkey could be added to each box of nonperishables.

“I can’t reiterate enough — it’s neighbors helping neighbors,” Henry said.

He said projects such as this help people realize that they really can make a difference.

MAC program students at Johnson Elementary School spent Tuesday afternoon last week packing bags full of candy and snacks and making Christmas cards to send to veterans at Operation Stand Down for the December holidays. The red-and-green cards had holiday-themed drawings on the front and contained messages such as “Merry Christmas” and “Thank you for your service.”

Luca, 9, said this is special for him because his great-grandfather was in the air force.

“I just hope they have a smile,” he said of the veterans who will receive the cards and goodie bags.

Sean, 8, said he was happy to help someone else and show appreciation for what they did, while Lauren, 6, hopes the gifts spark Christmas joy.

“I think they will celebrate their celebrations,” she said shyly.

The K-4 group also plans to stuff backpacks full of supplies such as flannels, toothbrushes and canned goods for the homeless.

To learn more about the Franklin Special School District and the MAC program, visit fssd.org.

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