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Elementary students feed homeless

Group makes sandwiches monthly

By Kathleen E. Conroy
kconroy@charlotteobserver.com

Each month, members of Elizabeth Lane Elementary School’s Ambassadors for Character and Service head to school early to make sure someone who’s hungry in Charlotte has a meal.

The 41-member club, known as ACES, lines up in the school cafeteria on select days and fashions sandwiches assembly line-style.

It’s not just about character and service, says school coordinator Mary Lynn Buchta.

“Our school is a character-education school, where we teach and emphasize one character trait per month,” Buchta said.

The Terrific Kid Program honors one student from each class monthly who best exemplifies the character trait. ACES also goes in to the kindergarten through second-grade classes at the beginning of the month and read a story to the children that represents the trait of the month, Buchta said.

ACES also is well-known at the Matthews school for introducing the character trait of the month – such as anti-bullying – to the entire school via Elizabeth Lane’s morning television program on WELS-TV.

Third-, fourth- and fifth-grade ACES students head to school about 45 minutes early on sandwich day. They have been doing so for about seven to eight years, said Buchta.

Jerri Beatty, a second-grade teacher at Elizabeth Lane, helps oversee the sandwich assembly line

“We buy our supplies from Costco and several grocery stores and are reimbursed by the Parent Teacher Association,” Beatty said. “The trays, gloves, and spatulas – to spread mayonnaise – are from our cafeteria. The group makes good use of a large PTA cooler, and parent Ashley VonCannon takes the sandwiches uptown that day, varying the homeless shelter each trip.”

Beatty said that it usually takes about 30 minutes to complete the sandwiches and clean up to get everyone to class on time.

ACES will be making sandwiches again Jan. 28.

Buchta said students are selected for ACES by a panel. They write an essay on a character trait and why they should be considered for the club.

“They are expected to be models of character education,” Buchta said.

The group also works with their sister school, Thomasboro Academy, a Title I school on Bradford Drive that includes several homeless families, Buchta said. ACES advertises for school supplies, coats, food donations and book donations for the sister school, which features grades kindergarten through eight.

The culmination of the school year for ACES is a visit to Thomasboro each May. Members bring reading or math games they have created for classrooms and spend their visit playing games.

Conroy: 704-358-5353; Twitter: ConroyKathleen
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