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John Wilson wasn’t sure what the group of young boys was doing at first. But when they reached inside a large box and handed him a special Christmas gift, Wilson’s eyes lit up with joy.
“I thank the Lord for the love they’ve shown,” Wilson said.
Teens with Forest Hills Middle School’s Gentlemen’s Agreement spent the afternoon giving out Christmas gifts to residents at the Wilson Housing Authority’s Pinnacle Point apartment complex for seniors. Together, they knocked on doors and delivered a message of cheer to seniors.
“We would like to wish you a merry Christmas,” 12-year-old Khamani Thomas said as he greeted residents. The gifts ranged from toboggan caps, gloves and comfy socks to puzzle books.
“Seeing their faces and seeing how surprised they are to actually see someone thanking them and wishing them a merry Christmas is priceless,” Khamani later said. “You can never take that away from somebody. It’s the thought that matters.”
The Gentlemen’s Agreement is a community-led program that not only builds character but gives teens in Wilson County Schools a chance to volunteer through a variety of projects.
‘THE JOY OF GIVING BACK’
Ken Fontenot, who is the Gentlemen’s Agreement program mentor and a history teacher at Forest Hills, said he wanted the group of young men to learn the process of giving with this particular project.
“One of the greatest joys to cultivate is the joy of giving back,” Fontenot said. “I wanted them to experience this on a one-on-one level. I thought it was very symbolic too with two forgotten groups — young African-American males, which is the biggest at-risk population, and the elderly. I thought this was a perfect opportunity to get them out in the community and giving back and seeing how much it matters.”
Eleven-year-old Ryan Jones said he was happy to be a part of Wednesday’s project. He said some seniors might not have family members who live close by. Others may have relatives who have died. But this was a chance to let the seniors know that there’s a group of young people in the community thinking about them during the holidays.
“They all need a little Christmas cheer in their lives,” Ryan said, adding that Christmas is about family and giving. “We all need Christmas presents.”
The boys have also taken on another project — restoring an African-American cemetery on Forest Hills Road beside the Wiggins Mill Water Treatment Plant. Last month, the teens started clearing debris in the overgrown area.
One of their goals was to find family members of those in the cemetery. Fontenot said since a story about the project appeared in The Wilson Times, he has heard from family members of those laid to rest there. He said those family members and others will join in and help the boys with the project, which they plan to continue working on next month.