Nickels for Nails: Valwood, Habitat link for good cause
VALDOSTA – When “H” week arrives in Valwood School’s pre-K classes, the young students begin their journey into service.
In exploring the world of the letter H with their students in October, Valwood teachers collaborate with the Valdosta-Lowndes County Habitat for Humanity.
Through the Nickels for Nails program, students collect loose coins around their homes which are gathered in tiny houses in the classrooms. The change is donated to Habitat at the end of October.
The hope is the students relate the letter H to the word house while also comprehending Habitat’s mission to provide homes for the community, participants said.
“It’s been really sweet,” said Molly Ferrier, executive director of Habitat.
She credits Valwood pre-K teacher Jeanna Ganas for the concept.
Valwood mandates each grade completes a community service project, which prompted Ganas to contact her and ultimately create a partnership between the school and Habitat that’s lasted four years.
While searching for a project, Ganas sought to select a project the kids could grasp.
“I needed something that they could relate (to) or they could understand what they were doing or what it was helping,” she said.
Charlotte Thomas and Lisa Henry’s pre-K classes also participate.
During H week, teachers talk with their classes about how not everyone has a home. They speak of the benefits of their donated funding.
Ganas said her students recognize they live in a house and that others do not.
“I think that attitude of heart and service is so important to instill in children at a young age to want to help and want to serve others so I really love that Valwood has that program,” she said.
At the conclusion of October when she collects the money, Ferrier speaks to the class about where their change is going.
She tells them of the importance of their own homes and how they’ve helped provide a home to a family, Ferrier said.
She said she believes, even at a young age, students begin to understand the service project and its purpose.
“It’s so sweet for them to start learning about giving back to others. It’s a hard concept for children that young to understand but every child that age understands. … They know that they go home to their bed every night, and they’re in the same place every night, so they can kind of understand how important a home is and that they are giving back to somebody else,” Ferrier said.
She said she believes the students are helping create awareness.
Through the years, the pre-K classes typically raise about $250, she said. She equates this amount to the cost of a front door.
The kids get excited when they discover where their loose change is going, Ferrier said.
To Ganas, the amount raised doesn’t matter.
“I tell the kids it doesn’t really matter how much money you have in your house because they need all types of things to build a house,” she said.
“Even a little nail, if you only bring in a nickel, that nickel will buy one nail and that nail will go into a house that’s being built for somebody. It’s not really about the amount so much as it is about training them up to be servant-hearted.”
Providing a helping hand is a rule in Ganas’ classroom.
School reaches beyond academics, and the project is teaching the kids how to be successful society members, she said.
“It goes so much further than the alphabet. I would love to see my children being kind and sharing and helping just as much as I want them to know of their letter sounds,” Ganas said.
“Those are life skills that they’re going to take with them forever and so those things are just as important as the academics.”
While another area school has collected change for Habitat years ago, Valwood is the only school that has done the project annually, Ferrier said.
She said Habitat is grateful for the school’s commitment. Nickels for Nails is a favorite for her and she looks forward to it each year.
“We are going to continue it for as long as they will let us,” Ferrier said. “We love that partnership.”