As Jenean Perryman stood before the students, her grin grew wide as she told them their actions have sparked a contagious kindness movement throughout the city of Grove.
Perryman, director of Petra's Closet, spoke for a few minutes at the start of Monday's opening for COW Week or Changing Our World Week at Grove High School.
The week is designed to serve as a philanthropic effort for not only high school students, but the entire school system and community.
In its second year, the effort began during the 2016-17 school year as a student-led initiative. Growing out of the student body council, the effort is designed to encourage students to think outside of themselves and raise funds for an area non-profit working to benefit the community.
In 2017, the first year's effort raised $13,409 for the Grove Backpack program. This year students hope to surpass that amount for Petra's Closet - an initiative which provides clothing, or other items, for Grove students in need.
"Last year you led the way with philanthropic work and inspired others," Perryman said. "You moved financial and public awareness mountains for the Backpack program."
Perryman told students Petra's Closet helped 50 students at the start of the school, providing clothing and school supplies. At Christmas, Perryman and other volunteers helped provide 70 students Christmas presents through an Angel Tree initiative.
She told the students it takes one person, helping another, to begin to make a difference in the community.
About Petra's Closet
Founded in 2007, Petra's Closet is based at Church of the Shepherd (COS) in Grove.
The effort began under the direction of Perryman, Lisa Groudhaus and Brenda Nowlin.
"We were a group of three friends and we just saw a need," Perryman said. "We began to see more and more kids [within the school district] in need.
"People feel like they have to cross three oceans to help somebody. But the mission field is here. People sitting next to us in math class. It's exciting that the kids are [learning] that."
In 2014, Perryman said the program got its "big break" when the COS congregation began Project 7, and chose to focus on missions that reflected the life of Christ.
In that year, the program became an official 501c3 non-profit through the church.
The nonprofit's goal is to provide clothing for students, pre-kindergarten to high school who are in need of assistance.
Perryman obtains the names of the students through partner agencies, as well as Grove Public School teachers, counselors and administrators.
"We want students to feel special and loved," Perryman said.
Petra's Closet is named for the word Petra, which in Greek means "The Rock."
"We want to be the rock that provides help to students for whatever is next," Perryman said, adding the funds raised during COW week means the initiative can continue to help students and help meet ever increasing needs within the community.
"It means we could do considerably more," Perryman said. "We can continue to make a huge difference in the lives of students."
Perryman said she's thrilled the students picked Petra's Closet. The non-profit is one of five groups who were considered for this week's effort.
"I thought it was wonderful the kids realized there are kids within their own schools needing help," Perryman said, adding she loves knowing students of all ages are helping with the week's efforts.
More about COW Week
"Our number one goal of COW Week is to benefit [a] local charity and promote community awareness," said Luke Hammock, COW Week chairman. "Last year we touched a lot of lives, but this year we want to touch more."
Hammock and his team hope by picking Petra's Closet, students will see how the organization helps classmates, albeit behind the scenes.
"Our student council believes we can change the world one small step at a time," Hammock said. "COW Week is the perfect avenue to do that."