BROOKSVILLE — For nearly nine years, Eastside Elementary School K-Kids have been quietly doing good deeds.
The Kiwanis-sponsored elementary school organization has grown over the years at Eastside, extending its services beyond the school grounds.
Third-grade teacher Cindy Kinner and current Title I parent educator Beth Zacharias began the group in 1999. Kinner stayed on as adviser, and for five years has had fourth-grade teacher Kelly Slaga working with her as co-sponsor.
The students, though, are the ones in charge of the program, in particular, president Evangelene Barry, 10, a fifth-grader. Other officers are vice president Arianna Minnie, 9, a fourth-grader; and secretary Brittany McBee, 11, a fifth-grader. The club is open to students in grades 3-5.
A pet project with the K-Kids is their work with environmentalism. Arianna said she likes K-Kids because she wanted to help the Earth. "We pollute the air and it causes global warming," she said.
Fourth-grade club member John Sohngen, 10, agrees. "I see that the Earth is going down and everyone's polluting it and I want to make it better," he said.
Third-grader Samantha Shipley, 9, is new to the club and has been caught up helping save the planet, too. "I wanted to help the environment," she said.
Brittany likes that part of their work, as well. "Everyone's been littering around our neighborhood and around school," she said, and she wanted to do something about it.
But there is more to the Eastside K-Kids than picking up litter and encouraging teachers and their families to recycle. They will be making Easter cards soon to be delivered to the elderly residents at Tangerine Cove of Brooksville.
"Every year they are very excited for us," said Evangelene. "Kids make them happy."
During December, the students coordinated a schoolwide food drive.
"Everyone in our Eastside family pitched in," Kinner said. The students encouraged their classmates and made fliers. They collected 350 pounds of food, feeding about 253 families.
The students made dog biscuits for the dogs at the Humane Society. They collected blankets and coats to warm people who were in need of those items. The children trick-or-treated for UNICEF, providing $223 to benefit the African Swazi Children Care Project.
The children adopted two foster children at Christmas, buying them presents from their lists: a CD player, candy, shirts, a CD and an action figure.
The children have recently been finishing a cookie dough sale to raise funds. Later in the year they plan to provide treats to the staff during Staff Appreciation Week. And they take care of the school's Memory Garden. Started by an earlier group of Eastside K-Kids, the garden is a memorial to the 9/11 victims.
Kinner practically bursts with pride when she talks about K-Kids.
"I love this club," she said. "I just feel honored to witness this every year. It makes you very, very proud to watch them grow and become good citizens."
Paulette Lash Ritchie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.