Grow West Brings Christmas Magic to Walnut Grove Elementary School
The magic of Christmas is special every year, but the Walnut Grove Elementary Toy Drive of 2021 held some extra-special Santa magic. After the COVID pandemic kept Santa at a distance in 2020, this year’s toy drive brought a sense of tradition back to the students at the school while wearing masks and limiting those present in the room.
“The kids look forward to this every year. A lot of families out here maybe can’t afford anything for their kids for Christmas,” said Walnut Grove Elementary Principal Carrie Norris. “It takes a lot to get ready for this event, but it’s well worth the effort.”
For more than a decade, Grow West has been spearheading a toy giveaway at the elementary school, which hosts children from preschool to sixth grade in the Walnut Grove and surrounding areas. The event exemplified Grow West’s commitment to supporting the communities they serve.
“Thirteen years ago, Rick and Jeanette Davis, owners of River Rats Septic and Plumbing, approached us about helping out in the community,” explained Jessica English, Credit Manager at Grow West. “Our business has been built from the partnership and loyalty of our communities, so giving back each year is a way for us to show our appreciation for where our customers live.”
Walnut Grove Elementary students are asked to write a “Dear Santa” letter with a list of things they want for Christmas. The teachers at the school help narrow down the list to one or two toys and Grow West receives a list for each class. Then it’s time for the shopping to begin.
“We shop for each child individually,” said English. “It’s a personalized gift since they’re getting something from their wish list. We wrap each one and tag them with each name.”
“Many of these children come from disadvantaged families, and in some cases, this is the only Christmas gift they receive,” said Les Lyman, Owner and Chairman of Grow West. “This is just one of several things that Grow West does in our local communities that provides a small but memorable contribution to our role as an employer and partner in the towns where we live and work.”
This past December, Grow West flew Santa in from the North Pole to deliver the gifts to students at Walnut Grove Elementary. The children were once again invited to speak with Santa and take pictures after having to keep their distance due to the pandemic in 2020. It’s a day of school to which every student looks forward.
“I’ve worked in multiple communities, and I haven’t seen a community rally around a school like this, the way Grow West does,” said Norris. “It’s true joy to be a part of it.”