ROCKFORD -- Eight-year-old Campbell Russo knows a thing or two about shoveling snow and helping people after this winter.
Russo and his 24 third-grade classmates at Brookview Elementary School are getting lessons in both this winter after setting a goal to shovel 100 driveways for other people.
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They've endured bitter cold temperatures. They take no money for their work. Their satisfaction comes only from knowing that they are giving back to their community.
"It's fun, and it's helping people," Russo said. "It makes you feel good."
Russo has shoveled 11 driveways so far; the class as a whole has cleared nearly 70 driveways to-date.
Directly helping people
Russo's teacher, Heather Frankfort, came up with the idea for the project last summer. She knew she wanted to apply for a grant that supported community service but was having a hard time finding opportunities for kids as young as 8 and 9.
"A lot of places have age restrictions," Frankfort said. "I wanted something that would be easy enough that kids could do it and allow them to directly help people. ... And then I remembered when I first moved here, I didn't know the first thing about living in the snow. It was a huge shock for me. I was pregnant and a newlywed. When my husband wasn't home, my neighbor would shovel snow for me. It meant so much to me."
Frankfort wrote up the grant for 25 shovels and 25 pairs of waterproof gloves and an explainer on how the project would work. Students would give and get nothing in return. A neighbor or parent would have to sign off on the work being done. The shovels and gloves arrived the week before Christmas break.
Learning to say no
Students starting shoveling snow on weekends and after school, and talking about community service in class.
"We've talked about why it's important to help people shovel their driveways, why it's important to have shoveled sidewalks, why we won't take any money for what we do," Frankfort said. "We knew adults would want to reward them. They'll try to give them $5. ... Do you know how hard it is for a kid to say no to $5? ... I'm so proud of them because of that."
Frankfort's students will get something if they reach their goal.
Their prize is just as unique as their community service project.
Snow recess with mayor.
Russo and his classmates will get to play in the snow with Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey. Frankfort asked the mayor to stop by the class and give her students some praise if they complete 100 driveways. Morrissey upped the ante, Frankfort said, and suggested they have some fun with the snow theme, maybe build a snowman together.
Students are determined to cross the finish line. Russo and several others have been shoveling at every opportunity.
"He's so excited to go out he's only in the house long enough after school to put his books down and grab his shovel," said Russo's mom, Elizabeth Russo. "For some reason, this program has really resonated with him, and I like that. I like that his teacher is trying to instill these lessons in these kids. ... He's even started doing the walkway for our neighbor. That doesn't count as a driveway, but he likes doing it."
Source: Rockford Register Star, http://bit.ly/1kOshFQ