Debbie Vaughn teaches English as a Second Language for the Lebanon Special School District, but her concern for her students' welfare extends beyond the classroom to their general well being.
One thing she is concerned about is whether her students have warm clothes and coats for the winter
On Monday at Byars-Dowdy Elementary School, Vaughn and her band of helpers played host to a giveaway for the families of her ESL students that included warm clothes, coats, shoes and more to make sure the students have the essentials they need. As usual, the moms headed straight for the children's clothes, while the children made a bee line for the toys.
As she looked at the families waiting to enter the school cafeteria where all the items were laid out on tables, Vaughn beamed at the children and addressed the crowd in perfect Spanish.
"They never cease to amaze me," she said, looking over the group.
Vaughn also praised the faculty at the school for helping her to help others.
"All the clothes came from the faculty," she said. "I told them I was doing this and they donated all this. I'm so proud of the faculty at Byars-Dowdy."
Vaughn also heads a community outreach program to help Hispanic families. The organization is Community Involvement through Education and Literacy Organization or CIELO, which means sky or heaven in Spanish. Through this organization, Vaughn teaches English to the parents of her students, and Spanish to local people, including teachers, ministers and doctors – anyone who wants to learn to speak to the growing number of Spanish speakers in the community.
"It's all about communication," she said. "My ELS and CIELO members helped me all day to sort and stack the clothes."
Vaughn is hopeful that people in Wilson County will turn their generous hearts towards these children and donate things they need. One item she is looking for is warm winter coats to see them through the upcoming months of cold weather.
"I want to do this again before the end of the year," Vaughn said as she watched the crowd sort through the clothes looking for things to fit their children. "I worry about them not having warm clothing this winter."
She said some of the families are reluctant to request help from other agencies, but she tries to reach out to families and make them feel comfortable.
"I don't want them to jump through hoops to get help," she said. "I want them to feel welcome here."
By the time the event was done, only a small number of items remained, and as the group was preparing to pack them up for a local thrift store, a family arrived late for the giveaway.
"We sent it all home with them," she said. "Nothing was wasted."
Vaughn also said it didn't cost a lot of money to help such a large group of people - people who appeared thankful for the help. She is taking donations for the next giveaway, though the only problem is finding a place to store donations until the event.
"All this only cost $80," she said. "If anyone has a donation, they can call me at 830-6728 and I'll accept it. I'll put it somewhere. I'm hoping we will get more coats before the really cold weather sets in."
Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 615-444-3952, ext. 45 or firstname.lastname@example.org.