Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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December 12, 2011

Girl with a goal: Donate 300 books to Boys & Girls Club

MIDDLEBURY — There’s a new Christmas story in Middlebury this holiday season.

It’s a story that began in late October when Rachel Scroggins and her eight-year-old daughter Jaley were getting ready for school. Rachel was on her way to Pleasant Oaks Preschool where she teaches and Jaley was off to her second-grade classroom at Middlebury Elementary.

“Every year we try to think of something we can do to help somebody else — even if it’s just her brother or grandma,” Rachel said. “I was doing her hair and we were talking about all the things we could do.”

Jaley had a wish.

“I wished that every kid could have a pencil, a piece of paper and a book for Christmas,” Jaley said. “Because maybe they want to draw and everybody needs a good book to read.”

Her mom thought it was a pretty good idea.

“On the way to the bus stop she kept talking about it and how she would really love for everybody to have those things,” Rachel said.

That morning she talked with her fellow teachers at Pleasant Oaks about her daughter’s idea. One teacher suggested that the Boys and Girls Club of Middlebury would probably welcome donated books.

That afternoon, Rachel met with the director of the club, who did think the idea was worth pursuing.

“She told me we would need at least 300 books to be able to distribute them at the Christmas party on Dec. 20,” Rachel said. “Kind of without thinking I shook her hand and agreed to it!”

By the time Jaley got off the bus that afternoon, Rachel had some news.

“I hope you are serious about this,” she said to her daughter, “Because now we have 300 books to collect!”

And Jaley was serious.

On Halloween night, Jaley and her mom set up a hot chocolate stand and raised $37. They bought 15 books at the Northridge Middle School Book Fair.

Friends donated new books. Family members sent books and cash donations. Then the idea really expanded.

Rachel booked a room at the Middlebury Community Library in early November, and together with Jaley’s friends and their moms, held a brainstorming session. Helping Jaley with the project are Adena Mesowski, 10, sisters Sarah and Julia Bailey, and 7-year-old Isabella Lawrence.

Although Rachel came up with the idea to call the project “A Christmas Story,” she says the rest of the ideas came from the children.

“The kids really have done a majority of the work,” Rachel said. “They came up with a letter and a poster, and wrapped donation boxes. They put them up all over town.”

Collection sites included Pleasant Oaks Preschool, First State Bank, Old Hoosier Meats, CVS, Rulli’s Italian Restaurant and First Mennonite Church.

“My folks work at Ingersoll-Rand in Goshen,” Rachel said. “So they took a collection box there.”

But, that’s not all Jaley’s grandparents did.

“We’ve got donations coming from all over!” Jaley said. “The company (Ingersoll-Rand) has places all over the country and they are sending in books, too!”

Jaley’s relatives, mostly living in southern Indiana and Kentucky, have been keeping a close watch on the unfolding story though the Facebook page, A Christmas Story.

“An uncle sent $20. And my husband’s cousin in Louisville, Ky., was so excited about her idea, he had a banner made,” Rachel said. “They’ve all been a big part of this even though they are so far away.”

Jaley and her friends collected and sorted the books on Friday.

“We didn’t wrap them. We just put bows on them,” Jaley said. “That way everyone can pick out the book they want.”

So far A Christmas Story Book Drive has collected 406 books. It’s a story with a happy ending.

For those who still want to make a book donation, a collection box will be at the Pleasant Oaks Mennonite Church on Wayne Street in Middlebury until Dec. 15, or you can email Jaley at achristmasstory@hotmail.com.

Jaley and her mom are asking for new picture books and chapter books for children from kindergarten through the 12th grade.

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Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

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