Washougal WA — Volunteers at the Hathaway Elementary Gift Store are providing students the opportunity to learn the joy of holiday giving first hand. Now in its fifth year, the store is filled with new and gently used gift items that students “purchase” using “Pawsitives” coupons earned as a reward for positive behavior.
“You will find, normally before the holidays, kids can get anxious and excited and can lose some focus at school,” said Pam Clark, Hathaway Gift Store organizer. “The ability to earn Pawsititves to “spend” at the gift store for holiday giving is a powerful motivator to help students focus on positive behavior.” The store is open each Tuesday and Thursday morning before school during the month of December.
Hathaway fourth grade student, Ruby Lacey, earned her Pawsitives by starting early on projects, being polite and listening in class. She was excited to be able to get a gift to put under the tree for her mother. “She is going to love it,” she exclaimed.
“It is really interesting to see how the kids make their choices,” said Clark. “They will say they want something blue since it is their mom’s favorite color, or they see a type of toy or a book that they know a sibling would like. They seem to really enjoy the opportunity to surprise loved ones with a thoughtful gift.”
One year a student even bought a gift for the school principal.
Washougal School District Superintendent, Mary Templeton, also dropped in to assist shoppers on December 4. “I love seeing how their positive behavior is rewarded in a way that allows them to give to friends and family,” she said.
“To stock and staff the store takes a large group of volunteers but each year the number of helpers grows,” Clark said. “Once you come and help you are hooked, and you’ll be back the next year. That is just what happens!”
According to Clark it is the expression of excitement on children’s faces when they find that perfect gift that keeps the volunteers coming back. “And the kids are always so polite and seem grateful for the opportunity we are providing,” she said. “That is reward you feel deep in your heart.”
Finding items to stock the store takes place all year, with volunteers looking at garage sales and around their homes. The word has gotten out about the store and now local businesses and organizations are offering items.
One of the most popular gifts are coffee mugs.
“Last year we had 300 mugs and they all went!” Clark said. “Sometimes we’ll add a packet of hot cocoa mix, microwave popcorn or other small item to make them more special.”
Other gifts include ornaments, small toys, games, books, holiday décor, and even scarves and neckties. To donate items, contact Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I just need to thank everyone who helps with this project,” Clark said. “Without help from the community, volunteers, businesses and my friends, we could not do what we are doing.”