MUSCATINE, Iowa–In December of 2021, Madison Elementary School sixth graders Avery Houseman and Nathan Canada realized the power of paying it forward by holding a food drive to benefit Freezin’ for Food. Shortly after they dropped off their final donations, they knew they wanted to find other ways to assist the community. Avery explained, “after the can drive, I liked what I was doing, and I knew I wanted to do something else.”
Avery and Nathan started thinking about organizations that could use their help and decided to do a drive for the Muscatine Humane Society. At the beginning of February, the students started encouraging everyone at school to bring in items that the Humane Society could really use, such as dog toys, dog and cat food, disinfecting wipes, cleaning supplies, stamps, and animal themed thank you notes.
To help the drive succeed, Avery and Nathan worked hard to publicize the event, creating videos to share via Class Dojo, illustrating and hanging up posters around their school, and working with school staff to share information on social media. They also offered a prize for the grade level that brought in the most supplies, with students in kindergarten through second grade having the chance to win an extra recess and students in third through sixth grade earning extra free time.
Each day, the duo would go and collect donations from classrooms, and Nathan would keep track of them in a spreadsheet. During the last week of March, Madison students, teachers, and staff members had already brought in 235 items, with second grade having contributed the most items.
March 25, Madison Principal Stephanie Zillig brought Avery and Nathan to the Humane Society to present their donations. Both students felt great about what they had accomplished. “It feels like it’s going to bring a lot of joy for both of us,” said Nathan, reflecting that he had enjoyed collecting the donations and that the Humane Society staff would enjoy using them.
“I think the animals and the people running it will be happy to get the stuff they do not have a lot of,” added Avery, realizing that the Humane Society goes through many supplies each day to keep all of the animals in its care attended to.
Muscatine Humane Society Director Chris McGinnis welcomed the donation with open arms, both because it will help the more than 60 dogs and 100 cats currently at the shelter and because it shows just how much young people care about helping. “I think it’s really exciting when kids work together,” she beamed as the students brought in their items to donate.
After the students dropped off their items, McGinnis took Avery and Nathan on a tour of the shelter so they could see how the items they brought in would help the animals and why animal shelters play an important role in their communities. Both McGinnis and Zillig hoped that having students do service projects in elementary school inspires them to keep volunteering when they reach junior and senior high school.