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Enquirer photo/Calvin Cooley (From left) Brooklyn Wigginton, Carter Sheats and Casen Dutton pose with their donation jar inside Warehouse Coffee on Main Street. The trio was raising money for student expenses at Hartselle Intermediate School. 

Hartselle Intermediate students raise funds for student needs 

Brooklyn Wigginton, Carter Sheats and Casen Dutton could have used the final few days of their winter break to do anything – they are, after all, sixth graders. Instead of staying indoors for television and video games, however, the trio of Hartselle Intermediate School students chose to spend Thursday afternoon serving their community. 

Inspired by Jim Stovall’s best-selling book The Ultimate Gift, the classmates set up shop inside Warehouse Coffee on Main Street to accept donations for A Heart For Kids, a benevolence fund for students in need within the Hartselle City Schools system.  

Money raised by the students will be used for breakfast and lunch costs, field trip fees and more. 

“This is the first year we’ve done this,” Sheats said. “We read The Ultimate Gift,’ and we talked, and we decided this is what we wanted to try to do.” 

Wigginton, Sheats and Dutton collected donations from 10:30 a.m. until 1 p.m., and all tips taken in by the shop during that window were donated to the cause, as well. 

This started to come together the week or so before Christmas,” explained Earon Sheats, principal of Hartselle Intermediate School. “As a system, at times, we are given the opportunity for our students to learn outside of the regular classroomandtextbook model. We call those virtual days, and during their advising time, these students were encouraged to look at ways to impact their community and help those in need.” 

Stovall’s novel tells the story of 24-year-old Jason Stevens, a reckless young man expecting to inherit a large sum of money from his late greatuncle. Throughout the story, Stevens completes 12 tasks dictated by his great uncle’s will, growing from each one. 

“We want to encourage our students to see a need and meet that need,” Earon Sheats said. “This is what they chose as their servicelearning project. They weren’t forced to be out here; they chose to serve. It’s exciting to see our students doing that.” 

One of the ways the students said they hope to serve is by paying down the rising debts of school meal costs. 

“We learned there were students who had overdue lunch money, and we decided that we could maybe raise some money to help out,” Carter Sheats said. 

Wigginton echoed the sentiment. 

We just really want to help out,” she said. “Some students aren’t as lucky as others, and we want to do what we can to help.” 

Hartselle isn’t the only school system that faces issues with student lunch debt. According to a study conducted by the School Nutrition Association, 75 percent of school districts reported unpaid student meal debt at the end of the 2017-18 school year. Those debts ranged from single digits to more than $800,000.  

The median unpaid meal debt is approximately $2,500, according to the SNA. 

“We are going to take care of the physical needs of our students to make sure their academic needs are met,” Earon Sheats said. “Our kids are going to eat; we make sure of that.” 

According to officials, Hartselle’s system-wide lunch debt is approximately $6,500.  

Dutton said he thinks the fundraising efforts can put a huge dent in that. 

“I think we can get $5,000,” he said. “We know some people are less fortunate, and we want to do everything we can to help.” 

Anyone interested in donating to A Heart For Kids can visit https://www.leanstreamrp.com/projects/view/515 or contact Hartselle City Schools.