COSHOCTON – Thanks to the generosity of Jim Woodson, River View Junior High School students were once again given the opportunity to pay it forward.
“I tried this last year with the young people at River View Junior High and wanted to do it again,” he said. “You are great young people with some of the best teachers in the world. It does my heart good to work with you.”
Twenty junior high students were selected through an essay process in their language arts classes to receive $50 to use to make someone happy. On March 16 they gathered with family and school officials to share their stories.
Madison Anker used her $50 plus $10 of her own money to give gift bags of stuffed animals to Coshocton Regional Medical Center to hand out to children who find themselves in the emergency room.
“It made me really happy to do this,” she said.
Since Carlye Balsley grew up as a military child she knew she wanted to use her money to help people in the military. She decided to create gift bags with items like sunscreen and ponchos for the security squadron that guards the gates at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. The airmen were so impressed with her generosity that they presented her with one of their squadron coins.
“Doing this made me feel incredible even though I was nervous and shaking at first,” Balsley said.
Colt Bantum wanted to make his money stretched to help three causes so he wrote letters asking for donations. He hasn’t heard back yet from the places he contacted, but said if and when he hears back from them he will use their donations to further his cause. In the mean time, he used his $50 and a donation from Baker’s to feed children taking part in an afterschool program. He then used his birthday money to buy puzzles, board games, cards and other items for Signature Healthcare and the Coshocton County Board of DD.
“I want to thank Mr. Woodson for this opportunity,” Bantum said. “It felt really good to help people in the community.”
Jayden Lonsinger used her $50 plus donations from her parents to purchase 48 pairs of shoes for foster children and gave them to a nonprofit that helps them.
“They said shoes were their number one need and I chose to help them because I know no one wants to walk a mile in these kids’ shoes,” she said.
Neveah Neill used her money to help get clothing for children at her sister’s school.
“I’m blessed with family and I know some of her friends are not,” she said.
Neill got sizes and needs from the school’s secretary and left them at the school to be handed out to the children.
“I told her not to tell them they were from me,” she said. “I told her to say they were a gift from God or a nice man. It felt amazing to help. Parents go through tough times sometimes and it’s not always their fault.”
Reas Pepper took his $50, plus money from his church’s pay it forward project and $20 of his own money to buy gift cards from Aldi’s that he randomly passed out to people there one day.
“I got four confused looks from people and two special responses including the biggest hug I think I’ve ever gotten,” he said.
Sydney Stewart put her money into care packages of everyday items like toothbrushes and toothpaste that she gave to people who visit the Hope Clinic.
“I felt so blessed to be able to do this,” she said. “I don’t think I would have had an opportunity like this if I wouldn’t have gone to River View. This is something I will never forget.”
Other students who took part in the project were: June Doungyod, Wyatt Galigher, Jessica Johnson, Allie Mizer, Olivia Shadwick, Kacie Shaw, Jaylin Williamson, Melanie Giffin, Katelyn Hardway, Bailey Henderson, Adam Montgomery, Faith Reeves, and Aaron Ward.
Many of them thanked Woodson for giving them this opportunity, but he told them that was not necessary.
“I need to thank you,” he said. “I thought last year’s group did a good job and it couldn’t get any better, but it did. I have $5 more for each of you and I also want to thank the parents for letting their young people do this.”
River View Junior High Principal Jerry Olinger was once again impressed with how the students paid it forward.
“You guys are amazing and what really impressed me is how many of you said to tell people what you did came from God,” he said. “Everything we have is really God’s and we are just here managing it. It pleases God when we take what we have and share it with others. So many of you also took the $50 and added to it. I really believe with all my heart that God is proud of each and every one of you. I hope that when you are older, get out in the working world and are able that you can continue to help others. It really does have a rippling effect. The world is a better place because of what you’ve done.”