When everyone gives a little – it adds up to a lot.

When everyone gives a little – it adds up to a lot.

Students at Mark Twain Elementary School learned this sentiment this Christmas season as they celebrated with an assembly on Wednesday. They expressed delighted shock as their principal, Laurel Rosenthal, read the results of how generous the school had been this year.

The school collected 4,288 canned goods for the Carthage High School FFA, many blankets for Bright Futures-Carthage, numerous nearly new toys for the high school to give to the Children's Center in Joplin, countless mittens, gloves, hats and scarves that were distributed to Crosslines and the Crisis Center. Oh, and don't forget the collection of assorted donations that piled up on the school's stage for the Crisis Center.

“We care and it shows,” Rosenthal said. “I've never seen such a giving school. It was almost an overload.”

The students cheered for their classmates that contributed the most in the canned food drive. Tyler Howard and Kassidy Howard collected 99 cans each, Juliana Haws and Lauren Haws collected 102 cans each, Isabelle Snethen collected 600, and the winner was Elijah Mazariegos who collected more than 1,300 cans.

The third grade winner from Mrs. Abbiatti's class went up on the stage to participate in the annual student make over. Every year for the past 14 years, the student who brings the most canned goods is given the chance to be a client of Brandy Graber.

Graber, originally from Carthage, worked for five years in Hollywood as a make up artist. Her experience from working on characters in movies such as Jurassic Park II, and TV shows like Seinfeld, gives an added bonus to all those attending the annual celebration at Mark Twain. This year, students watched wide-eyed as Elijah was transformed into the Grinch.

“Oh I love it,” Graber said of the event. “Getting them all riled up is the best part. We have a good time.”

Watching from the crowd, Elijah's mother, Rachel McConnell, was taking pictures with pride.

“It makes me happy,” she said. “Makes me feel like I've done something right.”

Elijah went door-to-door collecting canned goods, but Rachel said his success was a reflection of the generosity of clients at A Shear Delight, family (with special thanks to Darrell and Denise McConnell) and dear friends.

While Elijah sat still, across the stage was Brian and Marilyn Bisbee, with the Carthage Crisis Center. The two were all smiles as students presented them with gifts for those at the shelter. This year, instead of buying gifts for each other, the students adopted the center.

“This is the best Christmas ever,” Brian said. “Thank you so much – all the schools across the district saved cans for the center and we have been blessed with food. Over the last four years, we have moved a million pounds of food to many organizations around the area … Your support makes it possible.”

Brian also shared with the school that because of tremendous help from the community the center is able to send a family home to Wisconsin for Christmas. A local lady donated a car, and through other resources, the family will be given gas and money for food to make it home.

“That's what Christmas is all about,” Rosenthal said. “I'm so proud of all of you.”