CARMICHAELS – The hands shot up quickly when Carmichaels Elementary Center teacher Debbie Bristor asked her third-graders about “Mrs. Bristor’s cart.”
It is doubtful such a speedy and universal response would have occurred if schoolwork was the subject. The topic of the cart, however, is something they are proud of and eager to share with visitors.
The cart is a store on wheels operated by students in each of the district’s third-grade classrooms. It contains a multitude of items, including healthy snacks and beverages, seasonal items, pencils, tablets and crayons. The 600 students at the elementary center are permitted to purchase items at scheduled times of the day for nominal amounts.
“They (the third-graders) learn how to make change, to speak nicely to customers and say thank you to everybody,” Bristor said. “The kids all volunteer for a turn. There are stockers and sellers.”
The business education the students receive from the cart is important, but there are other lessons that are far more valuable. Several of them shared what they are.
“Some people have cancer, and we donate money for cancer so we can find the cure for it,” said Rachel Marzo. “Mrs. Bristor is hoping we find a vaccine for it.”
Carlee Roberts said the money from the cart also has gone to support Alzheimer’s research.
Out of the 24 students in the classroom, nine raised their hands when asked if a friend or family member has had Alzheimer’s disease. The same number raised their hands when asked the same question about cancer.
Student Seth Harmon explained there are still other reasons for the cart’s existence.
“We give money to people who really need it. Like, if someone is in the hospital and they need money for medication,” Harmon said.
In fact, proceeds from the cart have gone to help fire victims, the food pantry, Toys for Tots, and even Project Pierce, the effort by the Carmichaels and Cumberland Volunteer Fire Department to purchase a new fire engine. Proceeds from the cart also have been used to purchase DVDs for the pediatric wing at Southwest Regional Medical Center.
The cart has even funded a closet in the elementary center that is filled with jackets, shoes, backpacks and “anything else the kids need,” Bristor said. She related a student split her pants one day, and a staff member went to the closet and found something for her to wear. All of this comes at no cost to the district or the child in need. One dollar here and 50 cents there for cart purchases during the last 15 years have resulted in a substantial amount of money for the fund that gives and gives.
Third-grader Josie Barnhart said she thinks it is nice that people have also donated money to the cart and gave a nod to some of her classmates who have done just that.
Although students refer to the cart as “Bristors,” she said it has always been a collaborative effort. “It started out with us selling Tootsie Roll Pops 15 years ago, and it grew and mushroomed from there.”
The “us” refers to a group that calls itself the Carmichaels Crusaders.
Bristor and fellow teachers Gary Block, Barb Brant, Wilma Tuttle, Traci Dobish, and Karen Harr (now retired), along with Bristor’s children, Erica and Wes, have kept the cart going. All but Dobish will be retired when school resumes in the fall.
Elementary principal Rob Cole said the charitable work made possible by the the cart all these years is a “real compliment to the teachers that have kept it going.”
“Those are the things the community never sees. When you look at the total amount our students have given to charities and the community it is astounding,” Cole said. “This is one of those learning experiences that have nothing to do with the PSSAs (state assessment tests); it is real, true, life stories. To me, that is more valuable than any test.”