Over the past several years, East Central University and Ada City Schools have worked together to help students attending Ada schools.
ECU’s Care Closet Crew has tackled several projects to help students in elementary through high school, such as hosting drives to collect toiletries, clothing, food and school supplies, according to a news release from the school district. The team has also delivered items to Ada High School’s Cougars Care Closet and worked with the school’s counselors to organize items for students.
Last spring, the Care Closet Crew helped decorate Hayes Grade Center and the school playground.
The Care Closet Crew was honored for its work Monday night, when the Ada Board of Education presented ECU officials with the Jim Herndon Volunteer Service Award. The award is named for Jim Herndon, a longtime ECU instructor who spent more than 20 years as a volunteer for the school district.
District officials are grateful for ECU’s willingness to help Ada’s students, said Superintendent Mike Anderson.
“We really appreciate the work that you do for us, “ he said as he presented ECU officials with a plaque.
ECU President Katricia Pierson accepted the award along with kinesiology instructor Matt McGaha and associate professor of education Dr. Nanette Schmitt, who started the Care Closet Crew program. She said McGaha and Schmitt exemplified the quality of faculty members at ECU.
“They’re not doing this because they get this beautiful plaque,” Pierson said. “They do it because they care about the students in this community — not just when they walk onto campus, but who they are and how they can be successful in all areas of the community.”
She said the Care Closet Crew program introduces ECU faculty members to the type of students they will meet in college.
The partnership between ECU and the school district began when district officials realized that there were programs for elementary-school students who would not otherwise receive presents for Christmas, but there were no services for older students. That realization inspired the Christmas Connection program, in which Ada High School counselors worked with McGaha and Schmitt to identify secondary students who might not get Christmas gifts.
ECU raised money to buy gift cards and other presents for students. Several ECU departments — including the athletics and kinesiology departments — contributed money and gifts to the cause.
The high school counselors wrapped the gifts and distributed them to students, said Paula Kedy, executive director of academics and instruction for the school district. The gifts bore tags saying, “From Your Friends at ECU!”
McGaha and Schmitt later decided that ECU’s education students would benefit from participating in the program. Those students formed the university’s “Care Closet Crew,” which has developed and implemented several programs designed to help Ada students.
McGaha said the program benefits ECU students as well as children attending Ada schools.
“It’s not a one-way street,” he said. “It’s a two-way street, because our education students are getting as much from this as your students that are in need.”