George Washington Carver School 87 gives back to its community each holiday season, donating to the Marine Toys for Tots program.

Beginning in November, the Montessori school sets up bins in front of the building and encourages students and their families to donate new, unwrapped toys. Many also donate money to the cause.

Principal Mark Nardo said the donations fit within the school’s mission of helping create well-rounded young people.

“We want the kids to really feel a sense of compassion, giving and understanding that there are folks out there that are less fortunate,” Nardo said. “We really want them to develop those skills like empathy, caring about your community, and caring about each other, especially during this time of year when there’s a lot of need.”

The program is becoming an annual tradition for the school, and the response each year continues to grow.

An official Toys for Tots donation site, George Washington Carver generally collects between six and seven bins each year. With each bin holding 50–80 toys, the school raises a significant amount of money and toys for the program annually.

Even more impressive is the level of giving from a community made up of so many families who are in need themselves. Berni Molson, a social worker at George Washington Carver, helps organize the event, and calls it heartwarming to see kids adding toys to the donation who themselves may be in need.

“I see them putting toys in the box, and the pride on their faces when they do it is amazing,” she said. The amount of the toy doesn’t matter. They just want to do something to help, too.”

The school also receives a grant from the Key Club, and the school’s Builder’s Club makes an annual shopping trip to the Walmart on Keystone Avenue, where students are each given a budget and asked to make their money stretch as far as possible. That creates an opportunity for students to have fun shopping for toys, but also to learn not only about kindness and empathy during the holiday season, but also a lesson on good budgeting and responsible spending.

“We kind of make it into a math and budgeting lesson,” Nardo said. “It really teaches the kids to be frugal and really get the most bang for their buck.”

The toys they purchase are added to the collection drive. Nardo believes the opportunity to learn is special on its own, but that the opportunity to help others during the holidays, and to develop the spirit of giving, is what it’s really about.

“A Montessori school’s educational program includes giving back and thinking about the larger picture and thinking about the community as a whole,” said Nardo. “Helping other people is really important to our school’s mission.”

Toys for Tots, which began in 1947, is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit that raises and manages funds and purchases toys for children and families in need. Run by the Marine Corps, the program is known far and wide for its generosity and its ability to serve a large number of children in need.