Positive intervention: OMMS teacher donates $1,400 worth of toys from personal collection

Published 2:47 pm Wednesday, January 3, 2024

By NOAH WORTHAM | Staff Writer

NORTH SHELBY – Last year, the National Junior Honor Society at Oak Mountain Middle School gathered together to raise $20,000 to benefit children who might not have toys for Christmas and for a brief few moments, it seemed the group would miss their goal.

However, Intervention Instructor Gretchen Luenberger stepped in to help and donated $1,400 worth of hot wheels and other toys from her collection.

“I just did it for the kids, it wasn’t for me or anything else” she said. “I happened to be there at the right time, at the right place when it was needed most.”

As someone who works with young people for a living, Luenberger saw another opportunity to help children during Toys for Tots and approached Principal Sandy Evers about the idea of contributing part of her collection.

“I knew that my collection—that were sitting in boxes or tubs—could do a lot more for so many children than for me just dusting them,” Luenberger said. “So, I chose to give them to Toys for Tots so they could make so many more children happy and to get someone hopefully started on their own collection.”

Luenberger has found herself overwhelmed with the surrounding gratitude from the community for a gesture she did out of pure good will.

“I’m one of those people that like to stay under the radar (and) behind the scenes,” she said. “For me to get so much hype about this is way beyond my comfort zone. I try to do this for all of my kids at school because every single child in that school is mine. That’s the way I look at it. I’m there for every single child whether they’re on my roster as a student or (if) they just need a hug or a pat on the shoulder. That’s what I’m there for.”

For her generosity, Luenberger was recognized and surprised with a Journey Shaper Award by Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Lewis Brooks.

“I’m very thankful for receiving such an award,” she said. “I don’t think it was necessary because I would have done it no matter what.”

Luenberger said that, as she got the award, they were already talking about plans for the 2024 fundraiser which will involve a car show.

“I’ve already got big plans for next year,” Luenberger said. “There’s more to come, I’m not done yet.”