Pine River students use day off to reach out to others

TUSTIN — While many K-12 students around the nation saw Martin Luther King Jr. Day as just a day off of school, students in the Pine River School District used the extra time to give back to their community. At Tustin Elementary, students and staff held a soup luncheon and collected nonperishable food items to donate to the Northwest Osceola County Food Pantry. Staff donated money for the soup and students helped serve soup and collected food items from community members. “It’s more fun (than staying home),” said Olivia Storch, 11th grader who helped to collect food. “Especially with how much people in this community give to our schools.” While using the day to invest time into community projects is not a new concept for the district, the soup luncheon was a new idea this year proposed by fifth-grade teacher Paul Chilson. “I was watching a news report and I saw they do something like this in Detroit,” Chilson said. “I thought this would be a great thing to bring the community together.” Across the district, students and staff united to complete various other service projects. Luther Elementary students cleaned, shoveled and made decorations for the Senior Center and Luther Lions Club; LeRoy Elementary held an animal food and toy drive to collect items for the Osceola County Animal Shelter and the Animal Rescue Coalition; Pine River High School accepted monetary donations for admission to a staff vs. students basketball game and donated the proceeds to Women Information Service, INC.; while Pine River High School band, choir and National Honor Society members played card games, bingo and had lunch with residents of an assisted living center. Along with helping with the soup luncheon, Storch, who is a member of a Destination Imagination team, baked desserts with her teammates to deliver to the Shepherd’s Table in Cadillac as a “random act of kindness” — fulfilling a goal the team set. Fellow DI teammate, 11th grader Kara Justin said helping the community instead of lying around at home on her day off was much more satisfying. “We just want to give back,” Justin said. “It’s a way to help our community.” The day of service was motivated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dedication to create positive change. “His whole message was everyone helping everyone else,” Chilson said. “He is the one we honor with this.” The district plans to continue the Martin Luther King Jr. Day outreach into the future.