December 11, 2010 in Washington Voices

Presents of mind

Pasadena Park grandma helps kids earn gifts by reading
By The Spokesman-Review
J. Bart Rayniak photo

Pasadena Park Elementary volunteer Cheri Reed helps third-grader Grace Peters find the perfect gift for her family at the Scholar Dollar Christmas store, which she organizes. By reading, students earn points that they can cash in to buy gifts for family members at the store.
(Full-size photo)

Santa’s elves have nothing on this grandma.

Cheri Reed, 64, is a volunteer grandmother at Pasadena Park Elementary School in the West Valley School District. All year, she collects gifts kids can present to their families at Christmas, or maybe get a little something special for themselves, at the Scholar Dollar Store.

“I’ve probably purchased over 3,000 items,” Reed said.

Students can buy the gifts using points they earn by reading. For children in kindergarten through second grade, they can earn one point for every 80 minutes of reading. Children in grades three through five can earn one point for every 100 minutes of reading. Parents sign a slip verifying how long the student has read and students turn it in to their teachers.

Last week, the Casa House next door to Pasadena Park was filled with not just Christmas spirit but toys, books, birdhouses, games, purses and anything else a child might want to pick out for their loved ones.

“My store will always have a bajillion books,” she said.

There were even toys for the family pets.

Each class spent an hour cashing in their points while volunteers helped them pick out toys or wrap their presents.

Reed greeted the students from Mindy Shulkin’s first-grade class wearing a Mrs. Claus outfit. One of the students approached her and gave her a hug. She said hugs are always appreciated.

That’s when every student charged her and gave her a huge group hug, almost knocking her to the floor.

She led them in a little dance; then it was time to shop.

Karli Whalen earned 31 points from reading. She said her favorite book she read was “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.” She said she was shopping for her family and her grandma and grandpa.

Six-year-old Colby Arch said he was using his 10 points for his parents and his sister.

“I read, like, 18,” he said of the books he read. His favorite was “Charlie Brown.”

“They are making really good choices,” Shulkin said of her students. “They are putting family ahead of themselves.”

Reed recruits an army of volunteers to help during the big shopping days. She said one parent takes vacation time from her job to help and another, Sandy Greene, doesn’t have her own children at Pasadena, but a niece and a nephew.

Reed also receives a lot of help from another grandmother, Jan Harlow, who spends six months a year in the area, dividing her time between here and Wisconsin.

Harlow said she shops for items in Wisconsin and brings them back here every year.

But all the volunteers credit Reed for her hard work to make a nice store.

“She doesn’t give herself enough credit,” Greene said.

“She made ornaments for all the volunteers,” said Linda Masterson, another volunteer.

“She is so fantastic,” said Susan Rauer, another parent. “I love her so much, and everything she does for our kids year after year.”

Reed said it’s the children of the school who keep her going all year long preparing for this event.

“I work it like a full-time job,” she said. This year, she lost her husband, Gary, to cancer, and has kept busy collecting items for the sale.

“It was really rough on me,” Reed said.

The Parent-Teacher Organization gives Reed a budget every year to spend on gifts. Reed also collects box tops for the school – half of the money Pasadena collects goes to the school library and half goes to the store.

She also spends her own money on the project and stores everything in her basement.

Shulkin said she saw a U-Haul bring everything to the Casa House last week and high school students helped unload it.

Reed said she keeps plenty of gifts under the tables to bring out between classes. She said she wants the store looking full each time a new class visits.

Everyone had a great time shopping last week, including Reed.

“I just feel like a kid,” she said.

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