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PCHS reaches out with ACCESS Club

By Tyler Hargett for the FCT

A giving hand goes a long way, and the Phil Campbell High School ACCESS Club stands firmly on that principle. On a Tuesday evening in late December, the club hopped on a bus and rode out to three of Russellville’s nursing homes to give presents to those who might not get anything else for Christmas.

The ACCESS Club, whose members are either currently taking or have taken an ACCESS (distance learning) class, was started in September by Distance Learning Aid Libby DeVaney.

“I told them, ‘I don’t mind doing a club, but we’re going to be a club that does something,’” said DeVaney. “I wanted it to be something where these kids could learn a lesson. (Through it), they’re able to see that they need to give back.”

The Christmas project had been in the planning stage since October. It began with making calls to Russellville nursing homes and finding out who had no family to visit them for the holidays. From there, the club decided to make a field trip out of it, visiting Burns Nursing Home, Terrace Manor and Russellville Health Care before going to eat at Rancho Viejo.

Everyone in each nursing home received a Christmas card and a box of tissues, while those with no immediate family received an additional gift. The students visited the residents in their rooms to give them their gifts and sing carols. Burns, in particular, holds a special place in DeVaney’s heart, as one of her former students, Michelle Airington, currently resides there. At the end of the evening, Burns Recreation Director, the Rev. Tony Datuin, commented on the club’s generosity and how the residents love and appreciate the students taking time to visit them.

“It will make an impact on them,” said Datuin. “They always get excited when young people come to see them. (So) we try to involve them as much as we can. We encourage it.”

Other activities the club has done this year include a Christmas Parade float and making 21 food boxes and 24 Christmas Angel presents for people in need. Next semester, they plan on doing a fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and hosting a Valentine’s Day banquet.