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The first weekend of December brings us together to begin our Christmas celebrations. 

We go to Christmas on the Avenue and the Christmas parade, and we enjoy festive decorations, holiday music, and smiling faces. 

We put up our Christmas trees, and our community is brighter with our windows lit up with candles and our yards gleaming with Christmas lights.

If you have spent any time talking with me, you’ve probably heard me say “Together we succeed” a few times. 

It is our motto and social media hashtag at RRGSD because it really is the way we provide the best education for our students. 

When we work together for our children, everyone’s life is better. We can do things together that we just can’t do alone.

You may not know it, but over 68 percent of all RRGSD students live in poverty and qualify for free or reduced lunch. 

Making ends meet is challenging on a regular day, and trying to buy Christmas gifts is sometimes just not possible.

But our community partners come through for our kids. 

They share their time, their money, and their love to make sure all of our children have Christmas.

Our Community Outreach Liaisons keep a list of children in need throughout the year. 

They shop for students using money from our special Christmas Angel, who donates $20,000 for these gifts! 

A tremendous thank you goes out to our Christmas Angel, who has so generously given this amount for the past four years! 

Our COLs coordinate with families to get the correct sizes and wishlist ideas. 

They provide information about specific children to others in the community who want to “adopt” a child or family for Christmas. 

Support from our community and local businesses is essential in making this possible. 

Thank you so much!

I was able to experience a tremendous blessing on Saturday. 

The Roanoke Rapids Police Club’s “Christmas for Kids” was a great example of “Together we succeed at Christmas” because of our strong community partnerships.

Police Club President Joey Spraggins and his team worked diligently all year to fund-raise and plan for this special day of “Christmas for Kids.“ 

They hosted the RAGE Wrestling event, cornhole tournament, and raffles to provide funding. Their “why” is to help as many children in our community to have the best Christmas ever.

Tina May did a fantastic job pairing each child with a city employee from the police and fire departments or another community leader to help each child shop at Walmart. 

She said, “I have to say this is truly the best part of my job and personally it initiates the Christmas season for me!” 

Director of Student Services Sara Council, Chaloner teacher Leasa Roach, Public and Student Information Officer Mandy Clark, Chaloner Paraprofessional Tammy Wilkins, Clara Hearne Paraprofessionals Sonya Hollowell and Cathy Duhadaway, and I were seven of the others who joined the city employees.

I began the day thinking that I would be helping children, but I ended it realizing how much I was blessed by the experience.

Mandy Clark and I shopped together with two sisters, who are in sixth and second grades. 

They were so respectful, kind, and thoughtful, even asking us if they could get something for their mama and baby sister. 

As a boy mom, I have not spent much time shopping in the Barbie and baby doll aisle, but going through it with two little girls who were excited to see all of the many dolls, and even more awed that they could choose some to put it the cart and take home is an experience I will not soon forget. 

I am so thankful for the Walmart staff who were so helpful and encouraging and for every community partner who made Christmas for Kids and the other programs like it possible.

Too often, we forget the real reason for the season, but we also forget how many things we take for granted, and as we shopped and debriefed with the other helpers, I know that I have been. Some children were excited to get to pick something new to wear because they always wear hand-me-downs. 

Some children asked to go down the snack aisle because they wanted Cheetos. 

And one memory that will always stick in my heart is that an angel must have left a pair of size six boots and a makeup mirror for a child who is used to taking care of the others in her family more than herself.

Thank you to everyone who helped make Christmas so special for our children. Your generosity has meant so much to them — and me.