Generosity reached across county lines Monday as the Bradley County chapter of the 40&8 Society gave coats and shoes to Riceville and Niota elementary schools.
“A lot of parents and guardians aren’t in a position financially where they can do for the children. That is where we step up to the plate and try to help out,” program coordinator Michael Dickey said.
Dickey, who is in his fifth year as the organization’s child welfare program coordinator, said the group chooses at least one school each year from Bradley, Polk, McMinn or Meigs counties.
“It’s something that I really enjoy. I like to think that whenever I leave this world that could be a legacy I could leave behind for someone to say, ‘Well this is something that Mike did for the children,’” Dickey said.
This is the second year in a row the group has chosen a school in McMinn County. Dickey said the 40&8 tries to pick a school that has more need than other schools in the area.
Guidance counselors Roxanne Dingess of Riceville Elementary and Laura Carr of Niota were present to receive the items.
Carr said her school received 15 coats and 15 pairs of shoes.
Dingess said her system was receiving 10 coats. Children were chosen to receive the gifts based on teacher referrals, and those they knew were in need based on working with them, Dingess said.
“It’s greatly appreciated ... there are a lot of students in need,” Dingess said
Funding for the project is raised by selling “Child Welfare” pins. The pins feature a character related to children and the year. The pins are sold for $3. Additional funds are sometimes raised through car washes and pancake breakfasts.
“We will also accept donations,” Dickey said. “We have a lot of people who have donated over the years, not only with money but (gently) used jackets or coats as well.”
The 40&8 focuses on choosing a school that has not been adopted by another nonprofit program.
Dickey has a special heart for the program.
“I grew up poor and I know what it’s like to be without,” Dickey said.
The 40&8 is an international organization that began in France. The group receives its name from boxcars used on French railroads during World War I. The boxcars were said to be able to hold either 40 men or eight horses.