Nurse Donette teaches students to give thanks for what they have

Assistant Principal Gwen Graves surprises Registered Nurse Donette Porter, presenting a Thank You card in appreciation of Porter’s efforts to organize a food drive and ensure every child enjoys a good Thanksgiving Day meal.

Registered Nurse Donette Porter goes above and beyond the requirements of her job as a nurse at New Union Elementary School.

Every year, she organizes a food drive to ensure all children and their families enjoy a proper Thanksgiving meal.

The food drive is in its ninth year.

“The program was started to teach kids about one act of kindness – how they can bring one can of vegetables, and how someone can do a meal with one can of vegetables and how that would change their life completely,” Porter said. “Throughout the years, we have encouraged students to show their kindness by bringing in food, so somebody would have a full Thanksgiving dinner.”

The collected food items are organized in boxes and distributed a few days before Thanksgiving Day.

“The last day of school, before students go on their Thanksgiving break, the parents come at different times of the day – the children don’t know they are coming – and they pick up their boxes with food,” Porter said.

To make the packages even more special, students adorn them.

“Right now, I have pre-k students coloring turkeys to decorate the boxes,” Porter said.

The food drive is an essential part of the holiday spirit of sharing and expressing appreciation.

“The program is important because it actually helps the students in our school,” Porter said. “A lot of programs are designed for helping people you have never met and seen before.”

Through this initiative, students help their classmates.

“When you tell the children that somebody at their school, somebody they may be sitting next to, needs something, (they are eager to help),” Porter said. “This is our way of sharing kindness and love and helping our fellow man.”

Gwen Graves, assistant principal at New Union Elementary, praised Porter’s dedication.

“I work very closely with nurse Donette,” Graves said. “Not only does this program help feed the children but it helps their overall health, which has a direct impact on how they learn. We are looking at developing the needs of the whole child. We are not here just for their educational development – which is our main purpose – but we also look at any behavioral issues they may have, any medical needs, and any physical needs, such as clothing.”

Porter also ensures children have proper clothes.

“Nurse Donette has a clothing pantry in the closet and she takes care of that, too,” Graves said. “We have a washer and dryer that our community has given to us. This is part of addressing the needs and the whole child.”

Programs such as the food drive and the clothing pantry help children grow up to be caring and valuable community members.

“Porter epitomizes not only looking at the needs of the students at our school and showing them how to give thanks, but also showing them how to grow to become community members who are empathetic and show empathy to those less fortunate,” Graves said. “A part of developing a great adult personality is learning not to just be thinking about yourself and your own needs but thinking about those around you. And that builds a better community. I love that our nurse is not here just looking for sniffling noses and putting on Band-Aids, but she felt driven to do a food drive. She is very deserving. She is trying to show students to give thanks for what they have.”

The program impacts the ones receiving and the ones giving, added Graves.

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