Joint Press Release
Friday, October 15, 2021
Superintendent Rick Reo Sheriff Dan Abbott
Paw Paw Public Schools Van Buren County Sheriff's Office
Paw Paw, Michigan – Second-grade students in Mrs. Shugg’s class at Paw Paw Early Elementary have been studying the topic of empathy. By reading Lois Brandt’s book, Maddie’s Fridge, their awareness was raised about the issues of poverty and hunger. To help her students show empathy toward others, Mrs. Shugg – the same teacher who brought in a shovel and held a funeral for the phrase “I can’t” last week – decided that her students could hold a food drive and design posters to encourage everyone in the community to donate food to those in need.
What began as a small class project has rippled throughout this small west Michigan town. When Deb Doyle, a person who knows people who know people, learned of Mrs. Shugg’s innovate plans her next call was to the school superintendent and the county sheriff’s office. A school behavior management specialist by trade and the daughter of an Ad Man, Deb recognizes the power of teachable moments and marketing. She knew that a surprise visit to the classroom by Superintendent Rick Reo, Van Buren County Sheriff Dan Abbott, and his posse of uniformed deputies would make a lasting impression on these youngsters and fuel their desire for a lifetime of service to others.
The looks on the faces of these seven-year-old students said it all when, as promised, all seven of these dedicated professionals took time to show up, congratulate the students, and help them deliver food to local pantries and hang posters in area businesses.
As one would expect of an educator, Superintendent Reo opened his comments by posing a question, “Who can tell me what empathy means?”
All hands shot up at the same time as one lucky young man answered, “It’s putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.”
“That’s right! What you students have done here is a great thing,” said Superintendent Reo. “Thinking of others is important. We are very proud of you for thinking of other people.”
Sheriff Abbott echoed a similar refrain stating, “I couldn’t be more proud of these kids for contributing to the community at this young age. It means a lot to our office and to the community to be involved. Please donate food (to local food pantries) on behalf of the kids for this great cause!”
When asked how she got involved in the food drive, a young mother of elementary-age children in the classroom teared up as she recalled what it was like to not have much food when she was growing up. “I came in to pick up my son one day and saw the posters about the food drive. I remember my Mom sending us kids to the store with three dollars to get groceries. She did her best, but I’ll never forget what that was like. I’ll never donate food that I wouldn’t eat myself. I made sure to buy and donate lots of easy-to-prepare comfort foods.”
After the surprise classroom visit, students and deputies helped carry out boxes and bags of food to the police cruisers. Carloads of excited students took part in a true police procession – complete with lights and sirens – as it made its way out of the school parking lot to deliver food to local pantries and a message of hope to the community.
Mrs. Shugg, her students, and anyone who donates to food to local food banks are living out the meaning of empathy by helping those in need. Through your actions, you are showing the world what makes Paw Paw Public Schools and Paw Paw, Michigan such a special place.
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