After-school Charity Club teaches school kids about empathy, helping others

Third-grader Sean Dalton was quick to point out why he recently raced to the Elmwood Elementary School library at the end of the day instead of going home.

“We (he and about 15 others) come here because we make stuff. We do stuff. We learn about people in need and we want to help them,” the Naperville 9-year-old said. “It’s all about giving to people who don’t have things.”

Sean is a member of the school’s Charity Club, a monthly after school program founded and organized by Marion Ruthig, who started the organization “I Support Community” in Naperville in 2012.

Over four years the organization has evolved into focusing on youth education, Ruthig, of Naperville, said.

“The Charity Club program is designed to teach inclusiveness, compassion in children, and empathy in kids starting as young as age 3,” Ruthig said. “We teach them through lessons about what’s going on in their community. And at each meeting we do activities to support a local charity. ”

Roughly 235 students participate in Charity Clubs at six elementary schools – four in Naperville Community Unit School District 203, one in Lisle and one in Glen Ellyn. Ruthig anticipates having 12 to 18 DuPage County schools involved by next fall.

All of the school clubs do the same activity each month. March meetings were designed to tell students about School and Community Assistance for Composting and Recycling Education (SCARCE).

After holding crayon recycling drives, Charity Club members learned how whole crayons are recycled for children who need them. Broken crayons are peeled and melted down to create “super crayons” or large crayons for children with special needs.

Jess Klaus, an adult lead volunteer from Woodridge, explained to the older Elmwood students about the work at SCARCE, then guided the boys and girls as they peeled the paper from around broken crayons and sorted them by color. Down the hall, younger children did the same with the help of parents.

Ruthig, the mother of three children who attend Elmwood, was working as an accountant when she saw a video about Chicago’s Hesed House in July 2012.

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