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For the G.O.O.D. of the community

Heritage Christian School’s annual serve-a-thon
Heritage Christian students Garrett Sandersfeld, Cody Maddux, Maxwell Kelly and Molly Miller take a moment to relish their labors at Squire Point in North Liberty on Friday, May 11. The kids pulled invasive garlic mustard as part of Operation G.O.O.D. (Giving Of Ourselves Day), an annual serve-a-thon that gives students a hands-on role in fundraising for the school’s annual operating budget while helping their community. (photo by Cale Stelken)

NORTH LIBERTY– Third-graders squealed with excitement as they navigated the thick brush and rolling hills of Squire Point, evading thorn bushes and using downed trees as balancing beams. It was a cool, cloudy morning on Friday, May 11, as the students of Heritage Christian School took part in Operation G.O.O.D. (Giving Of Ourselves Day).
One of three fundraisers for the school, the annual serve-a-thon offered 149 kindergarten through eighth-grade students a more hands-on role in fundraising in which they asked parents, friends and neighbors to sponsor them in a two-hour service project on the first Friday in May. In addition to providing students an early opportunity to lend a hand to their community, the fundraiser, which has been a Heritage tradition for over 15 years, is also designed to support the school’s annual operating budget with a goal of $25,000.
For the last several years, Heritage students have worked alongside the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) in the state parks surrounding the Coralville Reservoir. This year saw the kids pulling garlic mustard, a rapidly spreading, invasive weed that crowds native species and secretes toxins that poison fungi.
“I don’t know what’s good or bad; I’m not a plant person!” a little girl wailed as she cautiously pushed through foliage.
The light rain that managed to find its way through the trees didn’t deter the jovial students as they stuffed garbage bags full of the invasive weeds, which are easy to spot this time of year by their brilliant white flowers. A boy even cheered it as his favorite field trip of the year.
After completing their two hours of work, chaperones loaded the remaining bags into the backs of trucks provided by the USACE. The students removed a heaping total of 1,600 pounds of garlic mustard, which translates to an estimated 8.4 million seeds removed from the ecosystem.
Meanwhile, at Penn Meadows Park, fourth- through eighth-grade students adorned in their signature blue Heritage T-shirts could be seen carrying large tubs of fresh mulch to the park’s trees. This marked the first year Heritage students worked directly with the City of North Liberty, which provided truck beds piled high for the kids, faculty and parents to distribute. Students also spread mulch at Quail Ridge and Centennial Park. In total, Heritage spread 100 cubic yards of mulch for 350 trees.
At the North Liberty Community Pantry, fourth- through eighth-graders were split between pulling weeds in the community garden and around the building, and working inside, cleaning and organizing. This marked Heritage’s first year working with the pantry, a choice its executive director Kaila Rome welcomes in the future.
“It helps to have groups like that come in and volunteer during times that we’re closed, because they can get a lot accomplished in a short period of time,” Rome said.
“I hope that they continue this project, because it was very helpful for us,” she added. “It was also a lot of those kids’ first time being at the pantry, so it’s good for them to be able to see what we do and think of us if either they know someone in need or have another project that they want to help us out with.”
The school’s 28 pre-kindergarten students also did their part in Operation G.O.O.D. with a canned food drive in the neighborhood directly behind their school. After placing flyers on doors, they collected 53 cans, which translated into 48 pounds of canned food, and delivered them to the North Liberty Community Pantry the following week.
“I think it’s important that our kids gain real experience serving the communities that they live in,” said Head of School Mike Annis, who was also out helping mulch at the city parks. “It’s one thing to teach them about it in the classroom; it’s another thing to give them the actual experience to solidify what we are teaching them.”
The project made a strong showing in 2018. Bringing in a total of $45,248.26 for next year’s annual budget, Operation G.O.O.D. certainly offered students of Heritage a reason to celebrate their labors as the school year comes to a close.
“I want our students to learn how to give back to the community that supports them,” the head of school remarked. “So it’s opportunities like these that we get a chance to do a little bit of that.”