• Nov. 23, 2020 — Mountain Brook Elementary fifth-grade students usually hold an in-person Veterans Day program to honor those who serve and have served in the U.S.military. 

    While the coronavirus pandemic forced the program to go virtual this year, it did not prevent students from showing their appreciation to veterans in other ways. 

    Led by teachers Bill Andrews, Suzanne Andrews, Ruthie Gravlee, Alex McCain, and Tyler Pilz, MBE collected 135 care bags containing items such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, deodorant, decks of playing cards, and word searches. 

    Half of those bags went to the local VA Medical Center, while the other half went to Hayes K-8 in Birmingham. Hayes has a partnership with MBE. 

    “This is a great way for the kids and teachers to say, ‘Hey, life’s bigger than just this classroom and just Mountain Brook Elementary,’” Suzanne Andrews said, “and it’s a great way to reach out right here in our community.” 

    Fifth-graders collected items for the care bags throughout early November. While teachers asked each student to create one, many made multiple. 

    Each bag that went to the VA also included a personal thank you letter. MBE students have long written letters to veterans — both locally and overseas — but they only began supplementing them with care bags a few years ago when teachers learned the VA accepted donations. 

    "Giving is natural for these kids," Suzanne Andrews said. "They come from homes where they're taught to reach out and see what people need." 

    Additionally, each fifth-grade class created a poem honoring veterans, with each line written by a different student. Teachers printed copies of the poems, attached a U.S. flag lapel pin to them, and sent them home with students. 

    Students then found a veteran to whom they could give the poem and pin.

    “Our fifth-grade students and teachers really embody what it means to be a Lancer who leads from the heart, especially when it comes to honoring our veterans,” MBE Principal Ashley McCombs said. “While this year was quite different from others, it didn’t stop this team from highlighting the sacrifices of our military so that we may enjoy our freedoms. For that, we are forever grateful.”