Students and faculty of Chillicothe Middle School gathered throughout the city of Chillicothe for their annual CMS Cares Day last Friday.

Students and faculty of Chillicothe Middle School gathered throughout the city of Chillicothe for their annual CMS Cares Day last Friday. Before leaving the school, the students attended an assembly at 9 a.m. to learn the importance of service learning. Directly following the assembly the students formed teams and spread out to perform service work in the community. Some of the work involved included yard work at homes and schools, volunteering at the animal shelter, cleaning up the Edgewood Cemetery, putting up Christmas lights in Simpson Park and volunteering at the nursing homes.
CMS Cares Day was started more than ten years ago by Nancy Elliott, a former teacher at the middle school. Laurinda Davidson, library aide at CMS, took over the organization of the project when Elliott passed away. This is Davidson's third year in charge of organizing the event, but she said that everyone at CMS is involved.
"The administration feels it's a good thing for students to do," Davidson said. "It's a way to teach service learning to our students and to let them know that we should give back to the community. It's quite a learning experience."
In 2011, the CMS Cares Day service learning project won an award at the state level for service learning. The award, "Inspire by Example Service Learning Award," was given to five projects that year. The students were hosted at the Capital in Jefferson City, Mo., where a meal was provided and the award presented. The school received a plaque which listed the names of the participants. Due to funding cuts, the award is no longer presented, but Davidson said it was a special accomplishment, especially to students, because they were able to leave a lasting impression on the school.
Davidson said the event has received positive feedback from the community. The students and faculty provide services for anyone that needs help throughout the community, including larger community businesses, public places and even individual residences that may need help with yard work. She said, personally, she likes that the event allows students and faculty to see each other in a setting outside the classroom.
"It gives our students a chance to not only see us in a different light, but it gives us a chance to see them in a different light," Davidson said. "It strengthens the bond between us."
Students Sara Hopper and Maddie Eller were part of the group that strung Christmas lights on trees in Simpson Park in preparation for the annual Festival of Lights. Both said that helping to decorate the park made them feel good.
"It feels good because I'm doing something for my community," Hopper said.
"I know that people enjoy coming out here, especially little kids, to see the lights," Eller said.
Davidson said that CMS Cares Day will continue to be held for years to come.