Students who participated in the donation project with the food and materials they donated.

With one arm outstretched across the beige, bean-shaped table, Ellie pushes a strand of blond hair behind her ear. The Buckland Mills Elementary School fifth grade student tries to temper her excitement while grabbing the opposite side of the table, lifting herself a few inches from the seat of her chair.

Co-president of the Student Council Association (SCA), Ellie’s smile widens as she shared the importance of charitable giving.

“It is important we did this because I feel like if there is more food given to the cats, it will be easier, and they won’t run out of supplies. It is kind of like giving back to your community. When I am older, there will be stuff you have to fix, and you have to help fix it. It is better to get a group of people together to fix it,” Ellie said.

Ellie is describing the SCA’s spring food and supply drive to benefit For the Cats’ Sake, a non-profit organization in Rappahannock County dedicated to spaying and neutering stray, feral, and domesticated cats, and finding them homes through a foster-based adoption program.

Kiyomi’s animated facial expressions demonstrated her enthusiasm about the donation drive. The SCA co-president and fifth grade student said, “We thought it was important that animals get what they need. We see dogs and cats on the streets getting abused. This helps them survive. It is really sad, and I want to help those in need. This is a great way of showing appreciation toward animals.”

Courtney Warnell, fourth grade teacher, and Nancy Burrer-Meza, fifth grade teacher, serve as co-sponsors of the SCA. Warnell is a volunteer at For the Cats’ Sake. This is the second year for the food and supply drive. This year, the entire school participated, donating hundreds of items to the cat rescue.

Frances Sip, founder of For the Cats’ Sake, expressed her thanks for the donations.

“Our group is so grateful to the students at Buckland Mills Elementary school for collecting food for our cats. It’s inspirational to see young people learning about responsibility through fundraising, volunteering and charity work,” Sip said. “Thanks also to the teachers like Courtney Warnell, who share their passion for volunteering and making a difference in the community, with their students.”

Aland, also a fifth grade student, serves as the vice president of the SCA. With a very “matter of fact” confidence in his voice, he explained how his participation in the food and supply drive made him feel.

“It made me feel helpful and important,” he said. “If there is like cats with no food living on street and we take them in, and give them a loving home, it makes me feel like a hero.”

Gegeen, fifth grade student and secretary of SCA, thoughtfully pondered her response when asked what it was like to participate in the food and supply drive.

“It was very good to participate in this,” she said. “I haven’t helped anyone or anything like that ever before.”

Kyomi shared that the SCA participants worked together to design reminder posters for each classroom. Additionally, they shared advertisements on the morning announcements, and held competitions to motivate each class to give.

“This project prepares us in many ways,” Kyomi said. “There are so many problems in the world, and this shows us what we want to be in life and how to help others in need. We need to be grateful for what we have. I felt helpful and like I was changing the world. People helped me and my family when I was younger. I am so happy to help someone else.

Aland described his learning from the SCA project.

“I learned how important it is to donate and just help people out because in my home country I saw a lot of homeless people, and stray animals,” he said. “But now when I am donating the food and saving lives, it is teaching me how important it is to be generous and helpful.”

Warnell shared that the students also collected some dog food, which was donated to the Fauquier SPCA, a no-kill shelter.

Learn more about For the Cats’ Sake.