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December 10, 2012

West End first-grader thinks giving, not receiving

VERNON TOWNSHIP — How many children write to Santa Claus asking not to receive gifts?

Regardless of guesses and popular opinion, this request makes perfect sense to first-grader Lilly Groover, who instead asked for help purchasing items for the world’s poor.

That such a young girl’s spirit of giving knows no boundaries served to impress not only her family in Meadville, but also her teachers and peers at West End Elementary School in Vernon Township.

“She came to me one night, wanting to help someone in need,” said mother Susan Groover. “We made a list of charities and decided on Samaritan’s Purse.”

In addition to local charities, the Groover family has donated to the international Christian relief group for years via the Operation Christmas Child program, hoping to aid in the organization’s spiritual and physical service to victims of war, poverty, natural disasters and disease in more than 100 countries worldwide.

“It takes a 6-year-old heart to think of something like that,” Susan Groover added. “I started crying when she told me about it; I was so touched.”

The letter, typed on mom’s laptop in late October, circulated around Jennifer Simpson’s first-grade class, sending ripples of excitement that reached the administration office.

“We’re very proud of Lilly for writing the letter, and the class for embracing it,” said West End Elementary Principal Tamara Clark. “It’s very heartening; it really shows the spirit of the community.”

While impressed with the thought coming from students so young, Clark wasn’t surprised by another charity initiative launched from within school walls, having assisted students most recently with Hurricane Sandy relief efforts for East Coast states.

“It’s not charity for the sake of charity,” she explained. “The kids want to make a difference in the world. For Lilly to have put together that letter is remarkable.”

Below her introductory request, Lilly Groover listed several preferred items she believes best represent the needs of impoverished nations.

Items, available from the Samaritan’s Purse catalog, include blankets, milk, a week’s worth of food for adults and infants, mosquito nets, baby chicks, rabbits and stuffed lambs, specifically stuffed lambs that read “Jesus loves me,” for holiday significance.

“I am not expecting to purchase every item, but this is my top eight choices out of the catalog,” Lilly Groover writes. “I feel that God has led me to make this important decision to help others this Christmas season.”

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