A November Lesson on the Subject of Giving

By Marie Perry, Communications Director for the School District of Belleville

Front Row (L-R): Jenny DeLorme, Julie Uebelacker, Doris Diaz. Middle Row (L-R): Bob Gentilli, Kevin DeLorme, Julie Sutter-Blair. Back Row (L-R): Todd Hackman. Photo courtesy of Marie Perry


November brings with it a tug at most people’s heart strings – whether you find yourself in need of something for your family or able to be a support to a family, Thanksgiving encompasses the spotlight this time of year, causing us all to reflect.  In Belleville, many who work in the schools are keenly aware of their community’s needs.  Whether it means partnering with the local Belleville Food Pantry, First UCC Church, or providing services within the walls of its own buildings, students and their families become the focus.

Everyone deserves to have a “time out” and a chance to celebrate surrounded by loved ones this time of year, but it isn’t always easy for everyone to do so.  Memories of holidays past or loss can trigger emotions and grief can set in though the festivities are meant to be celebratory.  This is why it is wonderful when others can help shoulder the holiday season in a way that is meaningful.  To teach the “art of giving” is a fundamental lesson because no matter who we are, there are going to be good times and bad ones and knowing how to ebb and flow with the roller coaster ride life brings is essential.

The 1989 movie Parenthood notes the metaphor of the roller coaster as the grandmother reflects, “You know, when I was young, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster.  Up and down, up, down.  Oh, what a ride.  I always wanted to go again.  It was just interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened...so scared, so sick, so excited...and so thrilled all together.  Some didn’t like it.  They went on the merry-go-round.  That just goes around.  Nothing.  I like the roller coaster.  You get more out of it.”

The irony of it all is whether you choose to try to ride the merry-go-round of life or not, sometimes we find we are on a roller coaster anyway as actor Steve Martin quips back to his wife in the film about life being messy, “I hate messy!”  So, when life gets “messy” it is important that we have learned the art of giving and receiving.  Knowing how to recognize the beauty of giving to someone in need and also how to ask for help when life gives us “messy” is paramount!  And so, teaching empathy is the lesson of the month when it comes to November.  This is a lesson the School District of Belleville is in tune with as the staff work to make things better through things like the Wildcat Closet, the Backpack Club, the Belleville Community Giving Tree, and the Annual Turkey Drop, as well as providing healthy snacks through the Fruit Bowl Program in the high school and middle school classrooms.

Jenny DeLorme has worked for the school district since 2016 as a paraprofessional in the 4-year-old kindergarten classrooms, and has added the role of Homeless Liaison to her plate in recent years.

“In this role, Jenny organizes and provides information to families and students in need about the local resources available to them.  These resources include the Wildcat Closet and the Backpack Club,” says District Administrator Nate Perry.

Throughout the year, the Wildcat Closet, housed in the basement of the elementary school, offers donated clothes, coats, and boots to students, while the Backpack Club provides non-perishable food items and gift cards over the weekends when students do not have access to free or reduced meals at school.  Community members can help these programs by donating gently used clothes or by providing monetary gifts.

The Annual Turkey Drop (now in its 12th year) has been a heart-warming way to make sure local families have a feast to sit down to on Thanksgiving Day.  DeLorme notes, this year, “47 turkeys were collected Friday evening,” so the event was a success!  The group of volunteers usually secures the fixings each year for 50 Turkey Day dinners.  Collections are traditionally taken on a Friday night in mid-November on the corner of Main St. and Frederick St., at the Woods of Baladou parking lot.

BHS Fruit Bowls are a recent addition to fill the needs at the high school and middle school.  Monetary donations are collected monthly to make healthy fresh fruit available for students who are hungry.

“Last spring when we started providing fresh fruit in our classrooms, we did not anticipate the wave of excitement among our students.  Not only does this program promote healthy snacking, but it also contributes to a positive learning environment and enhances the overall well-being and focus of our learners.  To continue the program, we are seeking generous donors who would be willing to sponsor fruit for our students.  Through a partnership with Kwik Trip, it costs approximately $20 per day, or $100 per week, to feed our students.  Any contribution that ensures student access to fresh fruit would be greatly appreciated!” says Amy Lewis, 9-12 grade Language Arts Teacher.

The Belleville schools also help to promote the work of the Belleville Community Giving Tree program.  Through the work of the First UCC Church, it helps families who need assistance in purchasing gifts for children – ages birth to 12th grade.  Educational staff enjoy participating in this annual community event by signing up to provide families with needed gifts.

Learning to give inspires all ages, and we are never too young or too old to learn to be givers or receivers – the only thing needed is the right mindset.  Remember, life is a bit of a roller coaster ride – sometimes you are on the top and have much to give, and sometimes one finds oneself at the bottom of the slope with not much energy for the climb ahead and in need of a little assistance to get back up the hill.  Wherever you find yourself on the ride, it’s important to know there are support networks to help give or receive depending upon one’s view! Want to help?  Please contact Jenny DeLorme at delormej@belleville.k12.wi.us.