With the district celebrating 150 years in the community, several schools in the Independence School District designed ways to help that community.

Several schools conducted donation drives that they completed right before Thanksgiving break, and one second grader stumbled upon a big way to help.

Santa Fe Elementary, Sycamore Hills Elementary and Truman High School were among those that collected food items in friendly internal competitions for various charities – the goal, of course, being 150 items. Fairmount Elementary students strived for 150 items per grade for various organizations. Truman's students assembled the baskets of food items into a big “150” hallway display.

“It's been neat to see each school's take on things,” said Fairmount principal Jeff Anger, whose students collected food for Harvesters, letters for police, blankets and sipping cups for Children's Mercy Hospital, towels, blankets, treats and toys for Wayside Waifs and socks for Hope House.

At Fairmount's schoolwide assembly Tuesday afternoon, where some students presented the items to various representatives, Anger told students they displayed good citizenship with their participation in the donation drives.

“There's so many different things that can help our community,” he said. “I'm amazed all the different things you guys gathered.

“You don't have to be rich to give, you can just give,” music teacher Madora Graffeo said. “You can be generous in a lot of ways.”

Later, Anger said his students' participation was inspiring.

“It's not just about being a school,” he said. “It's about being a part of the community and actually growing and prospering the community.”

Sycamore Hills second grader Phoebe Brown became unexpectedly prosperous two weeks ago, and she decided to make her school's food drive the beneficiary.

While strolling the aisles at HyVee one day, Phoebe noticed a lottery ticket and decided to pick it up.

“I walked over it and it was upside down – it seemed like trash,” her mother, Audrey, said. “There were hundreds of people there that day, and we don't know if it was dropped well before. I was outside when I saw it was a winner.”

“I told her it was a winner, and she didn't believe me for a second,” Phoebe said.

Turns out, the ticket was a $100 winner, and with no logical way to determine the ticket's original owner, the Browns cashed it.

When Audrey asked her daughter what she wanted to do with the money, Phoebe pulled out a flier for the school's donation drive and said she wanted to put the winnings toward that.

“Very proud,” her mother said. “It was amazing to see. You think maybe a fifth or sixth grader would do that, but you don't expect a second grader. For 7 years old, she has a great and bright future.

“It's been more of a blessing for me. I'm thankful for not just my family but for everyone.”

The Browns went back another day to purchase the $100 worth of food items. Phoebe said it netted 300 cans, surprised at how much her sudden winnings could multiply.

With such a boost, her grade naturally won the school's food drive, making her classmates quite happy, as well.

“They kept on jumping up,” Phoebe said, “and giving me hugs.”