Story by Ashley Traylor, Staff writer
“The Mitten Tree” is a short story about a teacher who made her students wear socks on their hands during the cold winter months until a senior citizen volunteer donated red mittens to the teacher’s classroom during the Christmas season. The students loved the red mittens they found hanging from the Christmas tree and never wanted to take them off.
Mittens for “The Mitten Tree of Love” were collected in Alexander Hall for children, grades K-12 who are not prepared for winter.
Stephanie Brown, Murray State alumna, retired teacher and author of “The Mitten Tree,” started the drive in her community and two other communities before she asked Murray State to partner with her.
Brown started the mitten drive after her experience in education and seeing how many of her students do not have mittens.
“If the child does not have their basic needs met, clothing being one of them, they are going to have a hard time learning,” said Christina Grant, assistant professor in the Department of Early Childhood and Elementary Education.
The mittens are given to the bus drivers of elementary through high school students who will then decide what students are in need of the mittens.
“It also builds the community by having us partner with local schools and having them know we are here, we are helping, we love to be able to help their students out in many ways, not just teaching them,” Grant said.
The donation drive was sponsored by the Murray Area Council of the International Reading Association and the Alpha Upsilon Alpha Reading Honors Society.
“I think it is a great idea for Murray State teachers to design programs that directly affect the community to connect the university to the community, in effort to help children,” said Tyler Covington, sophomore from Murray.
The drive is helping students and children with an item that is low-cost and something that can be lost easily. It is an item that we can make accessible to them, Grant said.
“It is not all about teaching reading, math, science. It is about knowing the child,” Grant said.
Brown was a teacher for more than ten years, teaching in Georgia and Kentucky. She has published 11 stories and many can be found in Chicken Soup for the Soul and other anthologies.
Brown was expected to speak Feb. 17 at Murray State about “The Mitten Tree of Love” and her passion for writing short stories, but it was canceled at the last minute.
She is expected to speak at Murray State during the Fall 2016 semester because Grant would like for Murray State to partner with her again.
The mitten drive is important to Brown because, as a child, she could not put on gloves to go outside to play, and as her aunt helped her put them on, she told her mittens would be easier to take on and off. Mittens remind Brown of her aunt, according to the Gleaner news outlet.
It is not just about staying warm, but students will appreciate the mittens because it is a new gift, said Stella Childress, sophomore from Florence, Kentucky.
The mitten donation box is found on the third floor of Alexander Hall, office 3201.