County, Alabaster educators team to help kids in needPublished 3:07pm Tuesday, December 17, 2013
By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor
When longtime Montevallo school bus driver Kenenth Dukes sees a child waiting for the bus in freezing temperatures while wearing pants and a T-shirt, his heart breaks.
“It’s so hard to see a child waiting in temperatures like we had this morning without gloves, without a hat, without a coat,” Dukes, who has been running his school bus route for 26 years, said on Dec. 17. “They’ll say ‘Oh, it’s not cold outside,’ or ‘I just forgot my jacket.’ But you know that they just don’t have one.”
For years, Dukes has helped children on his bus route who have been unable to afford items such as coats and gloves. For the past several months, his peers in the Shelby County School System and the Alabaster City School System have worked to combat the problem for children throughout the county.
After Alabaster finalized its split from the Shelby County School System in July, members of the Shelby County Education Association and the Alabaster City Schools Education Association teamed up to make a difference in many local children’s lives.
After forming an Alabama Education Association UniServ Council composed of employees and retirees from both school systems this fall, the council began a campaign in November to collect winter items for children who may not otherwise have them.
Representatives from the two education associations encouraged their peers at Shelby County and Alabaster schools to donate items such as socks, scarves, jackets and gloves to distribute to Shelby Emergency Assistance, The King’s Ranch and Hannah Home charities.
In only two weeks, local schools donated about 1,400 items to benefit children in need.
“Our teachers in Alabaster and Shelby County went all-out,” Janet Novatnak, the UniServ Council’s director, said as representatives from the two education associations looked over the boxes of donated items at the Shelby County Education Association’s office in Alabaster’s Jessup Building.
“In only two weeks, we collected about 1,400 items,” Novatnak added.
Retired Thompson Intermediate School teacher Kathy Kilpatrick said the collaboration marked the first time the two education associations have partnered on a project, but said it will not be the last.
“I hope we as educators can set an example that our school leaders can follow with the idea of collaboration,” Kilpatrick said.