Pepperell Key Club: Sydnee Argo

Pepperell High School Key Club President Sydnee Argo wraps a gift in the school’s media center last week as part of the Christmas Key Kids project to provide toys for Pepperell Primary kids who are from needy families. (Photo contributed by Kami Gillespie)

Community. To different people, this word can occupy a plethora of various meanings.

To the students, parents, and faculty members who walk the halls of Pepperell High School, this idea of community is made reality on a daily basis because of our hometown of Lindale, Georgia. Lindale is different. All throughout history our community has been something special.

Pocketed in the corner of Floyd County in Northwest Georgia, the small, quaint neighborhood of Lindale has remained a home to many from mill times to modern times. Lindale, Georgia, was put on the map upon the opening of the Lindale mill, which opened in 1895. This mill was responsible for the production of nearly 15 percent of all textiles in the state of Georgia, and it employed 1,393 people by the year 1903, making it one of the largest employers of the state at the time.

As residents began taking interest in this cozy town of Lindale, they began improving the area by building homes and decorating their yards in order to give off a southern and homey aesthetic. Furthermore, this caused a boost in the population of Lindale which eventually lead to the construction of a school.

The name of the school was derived from West Point Pepperell, the company that acquired the original mill’s entity. A group of former and, at the time, current mill employees devoted themselves to the project of building a star lined with lights that they would hang between the smokestacks of the Lindale Mill.

In 1933, a star was built, and a tradition was born. After the venture of the star was complete, the group hoisted up the star at Christmas time in order for it to be lit. They succeeded in their endeavor and this tradition is still practiced in Lindale today and is highly anticipated each year by the residents of the town. Although it is no longer an active textile factory, the Lindale Mill continues to build its legacy through being a home to the set of multiple movie productions, as well as being the host of countless local community activities and gatherings.

As the mill has been laid to rest over the years, key components continue to be preserved, and 2,700 students receive an education in the Pepperell Schools because of its’ lasting effects. This is Lindale. This is our community.

Key Club: Youth Helping Youth Project

The internationally recognized Key Club is one of Pepperell High School’s most revered clubs. Key Club is known for its service from the school campus reaching to our local communities and cities.

At Pepperell, we pride ourselves in the continuation of the original Key Club goal that takes a group of students and forms them into leaders through building character and making a positive impact on our school campus and community through various service projects.

While we participate in numerous service projects throughout the year, our largest and most widely known venture is Christmas Key Kids. Christmas Key Kids is our own community project that was started to aid our children who are currently below the poverty line.

During the Christmas season, we decided that we wanted to make a mark on Lindale that would last forever, and we would like to think we did just that. We had an idea to participate in a nationwide Christmas toy project; however, while we were planning to complete this, we began pondering the idea of trying to help the children who are nearest and dearest to us.

These children were are neighbors, the kids we see running around at church, or playing on our local playground: The children that we teach, we mentor, and we love. We have many families who are struggling in Lindale, and we decided we would help as many as we could.

We reached out to the principal of our primary school, Mrs. Carmen Jones, to see if she could help us find a few families who needed help providing Christmas presents to their babies. To our surprise, she helped us find many families we could “adopt.”

The primary school principal contacted their families in need to see if they would be interested in our project. We ended up getting word that there were 30 families that we could help.

The Key Club started bringing in toys at least once a week, but we quickly found out that we could not do this alone. Kami Gillespie, the Key Club sponsor, reached out to each sports team and club at our school. Most of them were willing to adopt a child for each team to provide needed items.

With the help of the Pepperell High School students and faculty, we pulled our project off. All of the families were able to receive every item on their child’s list to Santa.

Last week, we loaded many trucks up full of wrapped presents, and delivered them to Pepperell Primary School. As I am reminiscing on this, I am nearly brought to tears thinking of all the smiles on those children’s faces. They deserved this.

Ever since I was 10 or so, I thought that Santa Claus was a fable, a myth, but after being a part of Christmas Key Kids, I now know that Santa is very real. He just may not always be the figure that you think. We were Santa last year, and we will be again.

The Christmas Key Kids project displayed a breathtaking picture of “youth helping youth.” Last year we were able to provide for 17 different students from Pepperell Primary School, and in continuation of last year’s good work, this year our goal is to expand to 30 students. Pepperell Primary’s administration is so excited and stated with the increase in their enrollment, this was a true need for our dear Lindale community.

Not only do participants in Christmas Key Kids feel immediate joy, but they are also encouraged for years to come. In 2008, a senior at Pepperell High School decided to sponsor a student from the primary school. Her attitude towards the project was remarkably generous, and when asked why, she revealed that as a primary schooler, she was reached through this same organization.

She said that it inspired her to work harder so when she was given the opportunity, she could help a kid who found themselves in a similar situation that she had once been in herself. Her empathy is an inspiration to us as we take on this project each year. Her benevolent spirit towards giving is the goal we have on this endeavor.

An unidentified source quoted, “At the end of the day, it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished. It’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.”

In a world where youth are constantly looked down on because of our age and “lack of ability,” we seek to extend our hands in service farther than anyone ever thought we would. As the young generation of today, we will show those who underestimate us what we can accomplish.

We will show the world just how capable we truly are. Our goals are large but very attainable. We will reach our goals by starting small in the communities we reside in. Our goals are reached by showing compassion for those hurting around us.

The idea of a kind world is developed through youth helping youth which will grow into generation helping generation.

For those of us in cozy little Lindale, Georgia, it continues here and now with the Christmas Key Kids.