Stadalsky: Channahon has ample supply of compassion
BY KRIS STADALSKY Correspondent September 27, 2013 3:14PM
Meridian High School teacher Charlie Basset sits among supplies collected at Channahon United Methodist Church for his students. | Supplied photo
Updated: November 1, 2013 6:13AM
Thanks to some kindhearted people in the Channahon area, students in a poor, rural downstate high school got extra help with school supplies this year.
A 2006 Minooka High School graduate, Charlie Basset is in his second year teaching at Meridian High School in downstate Mounds. The high school district draws students from four towns in the southernmost part of the state. It’s a very rural area, with the closest store being 45 minutes away.
Meridian High School is actually housing all grades at the moment because the elementary school was closed due to a mold problem. Students in seventh through 12th grades start school at 6:30 a.m. and are out by noon. The younger students start at noon and get out at 5:30 p.m.
When Charlie took his first full-time teaching job last school year at Meridian, he didn’t have much to decorate his classroom with. He didn’t have posters on the walls or extra equipment that seasoned teachers accumulate during their years as an educator.
The school is also on a pretty tight budget, as many schools are, so there isn’t money to give to teachers to buy supplies for their classrooms.
“You need some stuff other than the textbooks and a computer,” Charlie said. “The textbooks (at Meridian) are pretty old.”
Last year Charlie’s mom, Lynette Basset of Minooka, sent care packages with schools supplies. Channahon kindergarten teacher and friend Donna Szoke pitched in. She cleaned out things at home and found posters and books that she no longer needed.
Charlie requires each of his students to have a separate notebook and folder just for his class, and he expects them to be labeled and brought each class period.
It’s not unusual for students to run out of supplies during the school year in rural towns such as Mounds. With the nearest store nearly an hour away and many families being without a vehicle, getting those supplies can be tough.
That’s why members of Channahon United Methodist Church, which Charlie and his siblings attended as they were raised, got involved.
Szoke, also a member of the church, brought the idea to help Meridian High School to the church’s outreach team. They set out to collect much-needed supplies for Charlie’s students.
Word began to spread and other members wanted to help. Students in Vacation Bible School were asked to bring supplies as their community project, and the Ladies Aid group, which also runs the church thrift shop, donated supplies and cash.
Other church members, and even some nonmembers, made cash donations so Charlie could buy some things for the classroom.
In less than two weeks, they collected more than 700 spiral notebooks, 700 packages of loose-leaf paper and thousands of pens and pencils.
On the first day of school, Charlie was able to hand each one of his students, in each period, a notebook, paper and writing utensils just for his class.
“Every kid will get two to three notebooks out of me,” he said.
Charlie is grateful to everyone, especially his mom, for taking the students of Meridian High School under their wings and making their education that much easier.
“Whether it’s Minooka or southern Illinois, they still need to be on the same track,” Charlie said. “You can’t push them to the side. You have to give them the attention they need to get to the next level.”
Reach Kris Stadalsky at firstname.lastname@example.org.