Every grade at the school developed ideas for fundraisers for the employees who lost their jobs, including a wildly popular candy-gram project developed by paraprofessional T.J. Crowley.

The spirit of giving was in the air on the last day before the holiday break at Townsend Elementary School.

Students and staff presented the funds they had raised to help employees of Willey Farms who lost their jobs because of the fire Nov. 5 at the longtime Townsend business. The family-owned market and community landmark is located just a few miles from the school.

Students and staff wanted to do their part to help Willey Farms come back bigger and better than ever. As a project-based learning community, they decided to work together to solve the challenge.

Every grade at the school developed ideas for fundraisers including a wildly popular candy-gram project developed by paraprofessional T.J. Crowley.

All told, the school raised $1,800, money they presented to Donna Cavender from Willey Farms during a student-produced television program transmitted throughout the school. Their gift will be combined with others and used to help support Willey Farms employees.

Afterwards, the fifth graders took Cavender for a walk down the hall where their design ideas for a new Willey Farms are on display. After much research and discussion, our students developed plans that reflect elements of the old – such as local fruits and vegetables, candy, natural and organic foods, and specialty groceries – combined with opportunities for new products and features the kids thought would be popular.

Cavender took lots of pictures and promised to share them with the Willey family.

UPDATE ON WILLEY FARMS

Although the buildings at Willey Farms were destroyed in the fire, the business was able to sell Christmas trees and wreaths outdoors to help keep some workers employed. With the overwhelming support from the community, it took just 16 days from Black Friday, Nov. 23 to Dec. 8 for the entire inventory to be cleared. That included tree sales that were three times higher than usual, Cavender said.

"We're hopeful that rebuilding can begin in late spring or early summer, but it will depend on how fast we can get through the red tape," Cavender said.

She said a major announcement about Willey Farms is planned in February.