December 26, 2021 4 min read 6 Comments
I grew up in upstate New York. Since leaving, many people I encounter assume that Ellenville is like any small town, which is accurate to an extent, yet, there is also a uniqueness about my hometown. A feeling that I’ve never quite been able to describe to an outsider, but it’s an unspoken mutual understanding between any of us from there. I’ve been gone five years now and as time goes on, it becomes increasingly clearer what a special place home is. Lately, I’ve been craving a Fall drive up the mountain to the top of the lookout to take in the beauty of the leaves and the village down below. After, I’d want nothing more than a delicious egg sandwich on a hard roll from Wilsons. You see, hard rolls don’t exist down here in Florida. It physically pains me to eat any type of bread from here, knowing what I once had. The beauty and the nostalgic food choices of Ellenville are certainly key factors in what makes our town special.
More importantly however, I’ve missed the people. The sometimes imperfectly, yet perfect people who make up our town is what I’ll forever hold close to my heart. Coming from a place in which the population is the size of an apartment complex down here makes for some incredibly deep relationships. I graduated 14 years ago, and some of my fondest memories occurred in Ellenville High School. It’s the place in which I met my closest friends, who are still my best friends today. On days when teen angst was getting the best of me, it was the place I felt safe. I knew I could walk into Mr. Warner’s English class and escape to a world in which high school drama didn’t exist because he believed in treating us as if we weren’t just 16 years old children, we were equal humans ready to embrace and exist in a realm of greater consciousness and being.
Trust me when I tell you, I wasn’t always the easiest or most studious. In some cases, I was the student who had a permanent desk in the hall. I was the student who showed up late each day. The one who at times, cared more about where we were walking to for lunch more than if I completed my research project on the Holocaust. Although I didn’t always make the best choices, I had many people forever in my corner not allowing me to fail. Many of these experiences, shaped who I am as an educator today. And it wasn’t simply school that helped establish my drive for wanting to create Kind Cotton. It was the overall experience I had growing up in this incredibly tight knit community that has always inspired me to stand up for what I believe in: to create positive change and practice kindness.
When developing our company, we wanted to make an actual impact in the lives of children through reading. We weren’t looking to simply drop off books at a local Boys and Girls Club, with no connection to the kids or the community. Instead, with each purchase our supporters directly fund a reading program that we started. During each visit, we create fun literacy-based lessons that provide engaging academic opportunities for children outside of the classroom. When we go, we not only read to the kids, but we create arts projects, play games, and enjoy snacks. The best part? Each child leaves with a copy of the book I read to them. About a year ago, we wanted to share this experience with public schools through fundraising. Now, not only are we backing our reading program, but schools across the country are helping us spread our message of literacy and kindness while earning money for their own school. This mission has become something that I am extremely passionate about. We’ve even met new friends along the way and listened to their incredible efforts of creating a culture of kindness at their own schools.
And now, my dream has officially come true! Lainie, a teacher at Ellenville Middle School, reached out to start a fundraiser. If you're from Ellenville, check it out! This opportunity not only represents the great love I have for literacy and education; it stands for the passion I have for my home. It shows that no matter how many years have gone by and how many miles we are apart from one another, the Ellenville community stands behind it’s people and embraces their accomplishments. We may all be a part of a bigger world, but we know that our hearts will forever bleed blue. Thank you, Ellenville, for all you’ve done for me personally and for all you are currently doing to help make our reading program a success by putting books in the hands of kids who need them the most!
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