Mosby’s Mouths To Feed Teaches Wise Love

Staunton, VA


 “We don’t have enough food coming in,” one of our volunteers said. We all knew it, but it sounded even more critical when she said it. And it was. That’s when we sat down and brainstormed ways to get the community involved in raising pet and people food. Everyone would benefit, but how could we get the community involved?

That’s when the light bulb went on, the schools! Why not sponsor a food fundraiser for people and pets and ask the city schools to get involved? It turns out, Dr. Steven Nichols, Superintendent of Staunton City Schools, thought it was a marvelous idea, too. He put the word out to all six schools and the challenge was on!


One principal heard that challenge and envisioned something even bigger to teach his elementary school children. Chris Bryant, principal of Bessie Weller Elementary School in Staunton, Virginia has a wise saying framed in his office. “Excellence can be attained if you care more than others think is wise.”


Spend five minutes with him and you know that this adage is a deeply held belief he strives to practice every single day. Bryant has been the principal at the school for two years. The school itself has a longstanding history as the school from the poorer side of town. With 417 students, pre-kindergarten to fifth grade, 50% qualify for free school lunches.


Fortunately, Chris Bryant doesn’t let labels stand in the way of anything he does. That’s why the school makes sure these kids understand the importance of good stewardship every day. “We teach these kids to be a good citizen even if you don’t have as much as your neighbor,” Principal Bryant said.


Throughout the year, stickers are handed out when a child is “caught doing something good,” like picking up somebody’s dropped book. Any time a staff member saw a child helping another child, a sticker was given to them.


Once a child had been awarded a sticker, they could get a free child’s meal with a number of local restaurants that partnered with Bessie Weller. But it didn’t stop there. The school piled on more value for being a good citizen.


With ten accumulated stickers, kids could play with the principal. With twenty, they would get a Bessie Weller key chain; thirty would get them a picnic with the principal, and forty would get the student a Bessie Weller cup.


The school also brought in athletes that had graduated from the local high school and were now attending college. These athletes talked to the kids about the importance of staying in school, going to college or a trade school, and of being kind to one another.


It was all a part of Bessie Weller’s guiding principle to drive home the three R’s:


  • Respect for yourself
  • Respect for others
  • Respect for parents

“Teaching stewardship is more than a work day,” Bryant said. “It’s a way of life.” And that was clear to us from all the good people associated with Bessie Weller. So you can imagine how the staff responded when the central office gave two enthusiastic thumbs up for The Mosby Foundation’s Mosby's Mouths to Feed people and pet food challenge.


Dr. Steven Nichols, Division Superintendant of Staunton City Schools, said, “This is a worthy event.” He felt it was an excellent way to build character and stewardship. Chris Bryant thought so too. It fit right in with the school’s on-going project to teach good citizenship. In fact, HE would bump it up a notch or two.


He presented the idea to his staff, who fully embraced it. But they all realized a greater challenge than the food drive. “How do we keep our involvement level up for an entire school year?” they asked.


After a little head scratching, it didn’t really take long to figure that one out. It was simple. Build in excitement by giving kids and staff what they usually couldn’t have. For example, kids weren’t allowed to wear hats to school. Staff wasn’t allowed to wear jeans.


But if children brought in a can of food, students could proudly wear a hat that day; staff could wear jeans, and everybody knew you made a community contribution. It was a rallying cry that quickly picked up speed.


Some teachers were already involved in animal rescue, so they understood how critical this event was to both people and pets. Others, who had lost a dear animal companion, frequently brought in as much as 20 pounds of dog food in honor of their deceased pet.


The school wisely incorporated the pet and people food drive into their seasonal events, like BessieFest. The admission was a can of food to get four free tickets. It worked; cans of pet and people food poured in. When a homeroom challenge was issued throughout the school, participation soared.


The prize? An ice cream party to the homeroom in each grade level that brought in the most cans of foods. Within four days, the school brought in 1500 pounds of food! That was the largest amount of food donation at one time during the school year.


By the time school let out, the entire amount of food raised by all of Staunton City Schools was 10,000 pounds. Bessie Weller Elementary School raised 4600 pounds of it, or almost half! These kids were busting-at-the-seams proud!


An assembly was held and The Mosby Foundation presented principal, Chris Bryant, with a check for $1,000 to help the school with badly needed supplies. To show the teachers and staff our tremendous appreciation for their hard work, we also donated “Mosby & Me” t-shirts to all for their stalwart efforts in winning the challenge.


The students were so excited you would have thought it was Christmas. But then, when Domino’s Pizza showed up with dozens upon dozens of donated pizzas, the crowd, as they say, went wild! Kids were stomping their feet, clapping hands and just hooting it up. It was a joy to see! With the help of a very focused school administration and dedicated parents, these kids paid kindness forward to people they don’t even know.


But as is often the case with kindness, it just kept expanding. To prepare for a field trip to Green Valley Book Fair, the students wore their “Mosby & Me” t-shirts, which was an easy way for teachers to find their kids. And the Parent Teacher Organization donated $5 per child to buy books while they were there.


And it all started with a simple circle of a few Mosby volunteers who wanted to help their own community. That one idea grew beyond our wildest dreams and in ways we never even imagined. These young children have no idea what an amazing lesson they’ve learned. Nor do they fully know how much the administration really cares about them.


But right now, that’s not the most important piece of information for them to know. For now, they just need to practice kindness until it becomes second nature. One day, those young kids will look back with grateful hearts to the wise adults who loved them enough to teach them. Isn’t it amazing what can happen when you care more than others think is wise?


The Mosby Foundation thanks EVERYBODY who was involved in this tremendously successful community effort to raise food for the area’s people and pets. Dr. Steve Nichols, Superintendent of Staunton City Schools, all of the wonderful parents, teachers and staff of Lee High School, Ware Elementary, Genesis, Shelburne, Bessie Weller, and McSwain. You guys rock!








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