Who says you can’t teach character? Turns out, many PTOs and PTAs are focused on helping kids learn how to help others. This week, we found a great story about Summit Middle School in Johnson Iowa where the PTO held a Community Day. The PTO coordinated visits from several community service and nonprofit groups to give the students an opportunity to learn about how various programs work. For example, the Animal Rescue League did a presentation and the kids helped out by filling baggies with cat and dog food. Pretty simple stuff. But a great way to expose kids to community service.

So, we posted about character-building programs on our Facebook page and heard back from many parents, including Gary Parkes, a co-president of the PTA at Carmel Elementary School in Woodstock, Georgia. Parkes was justifiably proud to tell us his school is a Georgia State School of Character for 2011-2013 and a finalist as a National School of Character. The students and staff have worked on a variety of service projects; from twice-yearly blood drives and donating gently used stuff animals to collecting snacks for troops overseas.

Parkes was also recognized earlier this year as one of our SBLI Superstar Volunteers for the work he’s done on behalf of Carmel Elementary.

This month, we published an inspiring story about parent groups helping kids develop social awareness. One parent, Sabrina Coughlin of New York City, captured this issue beautifully when she talked about the service programs at her child’s school.  “I think it’s something that can’t be done in small gestures,’’ Coughlin said. “It is best learned in a steady diet of small gestures.’’

So here’s to baggies full of dog food and gently used stuffed animals. Here’s to building character, a little bit at a time.

Tell us about the community service programs at your school. We’d love to hear about them!