Seven years ago, a group of fifth grade students and their families created a community service project that people of all ages can participate in.
GIVE Day — “Get Involved, Value Everyone” — has since evolved into a “significant” community service project for all Falls Church City Public Schools. The event allows students in preschool through twelfth grade to “take action” by hosting various community projects throughout the school year, culminating on a Day of Service on Monday, January 16th.
During the 2022-23 school year, the GIVE day ambassadors supported five different areas: food insecurity, animal welfare, refugee assistance, sports gear to Africa and sustainable art. Various events from December through January have helped support these areas, including a bake sale, pet food drive and dine-out fundraiser.
The very first GIVE Day took place in 2016, with 12 fifth-grade ambassadors leading a group of 300 volunteers. Christine Lee Buchholz, the co-founder of GIVE Day said the idea to have the event was inspired by the International Baccalaureate learner profile trait of “caring” and Harvard’s Making Caring Common project. The Falls Church PTA wanted to “provide a tangible way for children of all ages to participate in community service.
“Every year the students adapt GIVE Day with their creativity, passions and interests,” Buchholz said.
Suzanne Hladky and her three children have been involved with GIVE Day since its start seven years ago, with her oldest son Henry being one of the 12 kids that were the first ambassadors. Hladcky has been one of the parent coordinators for GIVE Day throughout her children’s elementary, middle and high school years.
“It’s really blossomed,” Hladky said when talking about GIVE Day. “We’ve looked at local and international charities, and are doing our best to support what the kids want to support.”
To be an ambassador, Hladky said the process varies between grades. For fifth grade students in elementary school, they must fill out an application that explains why they want to be an ambassador and what matters to them when it comes to service. For middle schoolers, there is a GIVE Day club students can sign up for and fill out a form as to why they want to be a part of the service event/ambassador. High school ambassadors do more outreach activities on an executive board, including setting up panels for nonprofit leaders to speak to younger ambassadors as well as going to the elementary schools themselves to speak about GIVE Day.
This year’s GIVE Day is “pretty sentimental” as it will be the last one for this year’s graduating seniors — including Hladky’s son — who started the idea when they were fifth graders. Hladky said the involvement in the service event has grown since its creation and most people in the community now know what GIVE Day is.
“Kids really shine and have the opportunity to lead and step up,” Hladky said.
Connell Henderson, one of the 42 fifth grade ambassadors at Oak Street Elementary School, said his position is “pretty cool” as he and others get to help those in need. Henderson also said he likes working with high schoolers who help out with GIVE Day, and is looking forward to going to the Food for Others warehouse.
This year, FCCPS is partnering with Food for Others for its Day of Service by organizing ‘Power Packs’ for children in the region who may not have enough food to eat. The packets will be distributed to local schools by Food for Others.
“When the representative from Food for Others came to talk at our meeting, I learned there are so many people in our area that need help,” Henderson said.
He said locals can get involved with GIVE Day by coming to Meridian High School on January 16th to help the young GIVE Day club members assemble their Power Packs. There will also be other activities for families to help with — including making enrichment toys for animals in shelters and decorating reusable tote bags, as well as making donations on GIVE Day’s website (https://www.fcepta.org/store/7868).