December 19, 2014

Elyria
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Helping a family out of a jam


Elyria students sell jelly to give family presents

ELYRIA — The sweetness of sacrifice can be found at the bottom of 100 jars of rhubarb jelly.

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SHAWN FOUCHER / CHRONICLE
These Westwood Junior High students shopped for a needy family.

Just ask Sharon Svette’s seventh- and eighth-grade students at Westwood Junior High, who spent three days last month cooking up rhubarb jelly and then a month selling it to raise $200 for an Elyria family that fell on hard times this winter. 

In years past, Svette’s students would make the rhubarb jelly and sell it to friends and family, using the money to buy gifts for each other as part of a Christmas gift exchange.

Not this year.

“This year, they made a huge sacrifice on their part,” Svette said.

It started when a dozen of Svette’s students finished reading the book “Thura’s Diary,” about an Iraqi girl who grew up struggling in her homeland.

“I was kind of in the same predicament when I was little,” said Johnathan Dean, 13, recalling days when his family struggled financially. “People helped my mom out a lot.”

Johnathan and his classmates got to talking about the book, and most of the students found it easy to relate to families that struggle. The students had been selling their rhubarb jelly to friends and family, and quickly decided that this year they wanted to try something different.

“A lot of kids started jumping in, saying they had hard times, too,” Svette said. “The group unanimously agreed that they wanted to use the money to buy gifts for a family in need. I didn’t even come up with the idea.”

With the help of school officials, Svette’s students found a family in Elyria that had adopted a few children whose mother had just died.

“It was a person who all of a sudden found themselves raising two families,” Svette said. “It was going to be a tough Christmas for them.”

The students sold 100 jars of rhubarb jelly for about $2 each and ended up with $200 to spend on the Elyria family.

On Tuesday, the students were bused to Wal-Mart at 8:30 a.m., followed by a few hours of shopping at Midway Mall.

They broke into two groups and managed to spend about $20 for each of the nine family members who were the target of their shopping spree. 

“Most people don’t have much growing up,” Johnathan said. “Their moms struggle, too. What would we feel like if we were in their place? We felt like buying the family gifts — instead of gifts for us — was the right thing to do.”

A teacher for 30 years, Svette has headed up the rhubarb jelly sales for the past eight years. This was the first year, however, that the students suggested buying gifts for a family in need.

Asked how they felt after about five hours of shopping on Tuesday, and the students were all smiles.

“It’s good,” said Briana New, 13. “It’s wrong thinking about yourself and not everybody else.”

Just to let them know their good deed didn’t go unnoticed, Svette used her own money and gave $2 to each of the students so they could buy a gift for a classmate.

“It was just so they have something for themselves,” Svette said. “All of this was a very big gift from them.”

Contact Shawn Foucher at 329-7197 or sfoucher@chroniclet.com.