From kindergarten students to railroad clerks, Roanoke Valley residents have gotten into the Christmas spirit.
Sixty-seven pupils from South Salem Elementary School went shopping at a Kroger store last week, buying groceries and household items to give to a needy family. And two rail clerks have launched a fund drive to help workers furloughed by Norfolk Southern Corp. make it through the holidays.
The shopping spree by the 5-year-olds was an outgrowth of a lesson on the meaning of Thanksgiving, according to the children's teachers, who saw an opportunity to expose their students to lessons about money and sharing.
Parents were asked to assign the children extra chores for payment -- one child washed the family cat; another tended a worm ranch -- and the children raised $140 for the shopping trip.
The children's offering includes a ham and a turkey, nonperishable foods and personal items. They also threw in a few of their own favorites, including cocoa mix, peanut butter and raisins. The goods were to be delivered this week to a mother and four children ages 12 to 17, the teachers said.
Meanwhile, in Roanoke, two rail clerks said they set up the holiday fund because so many railroad workers were out of jobs.
"We've never had so many members furloughed this time of the year," said Ron Mayfield, a member of the Transportation Communications Union and one of the organizers of the fund. "I felt it was unfortunate these people had been furloughed only two or three weeks before Christmas."
Mayfield estimated that about 100 rail workers have been laid off in Roanoke in the last month. Norfolk Southern has announced 30 additional layoffs and plans to cut 12 positions in Roanoke's East End shops.
So far the fund has $700 in it, and Mayfield and Calvin Cronise said they're seeking donations from throughout the Roanoke Valley.