PERU - It's the season of giving and the message is one understood loud and clear at Ausable Forks Elementary.
First-grade students there, helped by teachers and parent volunteers, loaded up two school buses with donations for the Elmore SPCA animal shelter this week, dropping them off Dec. 20.
"This is our 10th year of donating to Elmore," said teacher Shyloah Osteyee. "We love it because it really teaches them they can make a difference and they can see where their donations are going and how all their hard work comes to fruition."
Donations are collected and brought in by the students starting before Thanksgiving recess, Osteyee explained, with kids gathering items like pet food, leashes, and blankets.
"Our teachers and moms and dads from the whole community come in to help us out," said Osteyee. "The whole community has been very, very generous over the years. I think it's important for the kids to see that their families can be involved and really change the way things are in their own communities, even if it's something as simple as donating dog biscuits."
And, the kids are getting the message, said Osteyee.
First-grader Kolby Furnia, who has a dog of his own, explained what he was doing at Elmore SPCA that day.
"We brought stuff into the animal shelter," said Furnia. "Cat food, leashes, dog toys - cause the dogs can play with them."
Furnia added he also "feels good" to donate items to the shelter and enjoyed watching the animals "run around."
Classmate Jenna Stanley said she enjoyed "bringing the treats to the animals" and other items so "they can have good stuff for their homes and stuff to eat."
Kc Mace, member of the Elmore SPCA board of directors, said she was overwhelmed by the donations collected this year.
"This is a tremendous benefit for us because the more donations we receive the less we have to spend out of monies that we have for our operating budget," said Mace.
Having young students make the contributions means even more, she added.
"We have kids who, rather than have a birthday with presents or parties, donate all that to the shelter in the way of food and things like that," said Mace. "It just warms my heart to see there are kids out there who really care about these animals. A lot of adults could really take a lesson from these kids."