teachers hold lend a hand giftsEach holiday season for the past seven years, one DeKalb County School District (DCSD) school has gone the extra mile in aiding its underserved and poverty stricken student population.

The 2018-2019 school year marked the seventh annual Lend a Hand drive at Elizabeth Andrews High School. Lend a Hand, founded by Science Department chair Teresa Massey, seeks to provide gifts to students who may be facing hard times financially or having a difficult time at home.

“We have a very loving school community—faculty and staff don’t mind looking out for students who need anything,” Massey said. “We have many of the same people who participate and give heavily, people who look forward to it every year. This year, we also had two students participate in giving.”

Each year after Thanksgiving break, announcements are made at Elizabeth Andrews by Principal Merlon Jones detailing the Lend a Hand drive. Ornaments bearing gift ideas are placed on a tree within the school, and each day, staff members take an ornament and buy the corresponding gift. The gifts are discretely given to students the last day of the fall semester.

According to Massey, gifts include winter coats, shoes, hoodies, hats, gloves, bags, and other necessities often taken for granted. Many of the beneficiaries of the Lend a Hand drive specifically ask for such things as MARTA cards, she said.

“Many students have to get to Elizabeth Andrews on their own and pay for transportation, which is a recurring problem. For them to ask for that for Christmas over anything else is commendable,” said Massey. “Many of these students aren’t used to getting gifts. They’re used to looking out for a little brother or sister. They’re facing situations we never have to think about.”

tree with gifts from driveUpon receiving the gifts on December 21, the eight benefitting students—chosen by the school’s guidance counselors—were overwhelmed with joy. What’s more, they were ready to pay it forward.

“The students immediately wanted to repay the kindness, and asked who they could say ‘thank you’ to,” Massey said.

Lend a Hand’s overall mission is to fulfill the district’s mission of educating the ‘whole student,’ or assuring no barriers exist for current students when it comes to learning.

“If a student is missing key components, like socks or shoes, or medical care or dental care, it’s much more difficult to learn. It’s safe to assume these students will not learn as well,” Massey said. “As an educator and contributing community member, I want to help students be successful. It’s important to lay a foundation for people. That’s what we’re doing; we’re saying, ‘Here, take this, and when you’re able, give back.’ We’re teaching students how to give back and eventually pay it forward.”

For information on aiding future endeavors by the Lend a Hand initiative at Elizabeth Andrews High School, contact Teresa Massey at teresa_massey@dekalbschoolsga.org.