Education

Glendover first-grader initiates big project, leads school in helping refugees

Seven-year-old Anneliese Morgan with items collected by Glendover Elementary students for refugees. Morgan started a service project at Glendover, and collected dozens of toiletry items for Kentucky Refugee Ministries.
Seven-year-old Anneliese Morgan with items collected by Glendover Elementary students for refugees. Morgan started a service project at Glendover, and collected dozens of toiletry items for Kentucky Refugee Ministries. palcala@herald-leader.com

Glendover Elementary first-grader Anneliese Morgan has started a service project that will affect refugees in Lexington for months: She galvanized students at her school to fill boxes with shampoo, toothbrushes, laundry soap and other items that will help ease the transition for newly arrived refugees.

“We just sent home a little flier,” said Anneliese, 7. “I thought that we would get half of it, not all of it.”

This fall, Anneliese noticed that Glendover was diverse, and her parents confirmed that some students who enrolled in school in the middle of the year were refugees from war-torn countries.

Then, Anneliese, whose aunt had moved to South Korea over the summer, grew alarmed when she heard news reports of a controlling North Korean leader. Her parents tried to assure her that South Korea was safe.

“We talked a lot about it. She would actually stay up late at night, asking, ‘How can there be families in the world who aren’t safe, and how can we help them?’” her mother, Nicole Morgan said. “She always assumed that everyone lives like we live here.”

Nicole Morgan said the family talked to teacher Christina Fox, who talked to school guidance specialist Meghan Borough. They agreed that the “best thing to do when you are concerned about something is to try to find a way to make a difference.”

We got so much more than we ever thought we would get. It just kind of started with a little tiny idea.

Meghan Borough, Glendover guidance specialist

Borough contacted Kentucky Refugee Ministries. Together with Anneliese, the school staff came up with the idea of collecting toiletries. Anneliese asked her classmates to help; she went home and made signs.

“She’s really taken a hold of this,” her mother said. “It definitely goes along with what we know of her already. She’s always been very empathetic and very compassionate.”

Borough said the drive lasted for a week in early December. “We filled up all of our boxes on the first day,” she said.

Kindergarten students brought soap, first-graders brought toothbrushes and toothpaste, second-graders brought shampoo, third-graders brought deodorant, fourth-graders donated laundry detergent, and fifth-graders brought quarters for doing laundry.

“We were so overwhelmed by the generous response from the Glendover community,” said Borough. “We got so much more than we ever thought we would get. It just kind of started with a little tiny idea.”

The items filled a display case in the school foyer.

Kentucky Refugee Ministries volunteer coordinator Marlee Mirre said refugees currently are coming to Lexington from Nepal, Iraq and the Congo, and will use the donated items.

“We’re putting them together for refugees who are newly employed,” she said. “It’s going to benefit them tremendously.”

Nicole Morgan said the project had “made a huge difference” to her daughter as well. “She changed her whole perspective from being upset to thinking, ‘This is something we can do to actually help.’”

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears

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