- Penn-Delco School District
Kindness Drives Pennell Students
It started out as a kind gesture of support for students participating in career days at Northley and Pennell Elementary. Melissa Hambridge, General Manager of the Aston Wawa on Pennell Road, spent time with students sharing her experiences, and even some goodies, too. During her time at Pennell, Hambridge connected with first grade teacher Maureen Irving who suggested Hambridge come read to her students for story time.
“I love to read," shared Hambridge. "I have five grown kids of my own, so I came to do some story time."
Inspired by the effort, one of her managers suggested they connect even further with students at the school.
“I got the idea of coloring pages from another Wawa location down south on our social media pages,” remembered Kaiden Bard, a former student of Irving and a 2019 graduate from Sun Valley High School.
The kids jumped in and colored for the store, their art eventually becoming a staple at the coffee station. It became so successful, that Bard suggested they bring over the cardboard coffee clutches (the holders for warm cups) to have students decorate as well.
"I knew Melissa was starting a partnership with Mrs. Irving, and that has taken off more than anyone expected," said Bard.
"It really brightens everybody's day," he continued. "We have a thing at Wawa about being a day brightener and their artwork, literally, brightens everyone's day when they see it. Their faces light up!"
“We put up a little sign to say these are the kids in the community doing this and it really became a focal point for customers to appreciate the kids’ artwork,” explained Hambridge. “It became a nice thing to put a smile on people’s faces.”
And not just customer’s faces.
The first-grade students in Irving’s class look forward to decorating the clutches, just like the first graders that began the project last year. They have the chance to color them on rainy days when they cannot go outside or during down time when work is complete.
First grade student Riley truly enjoys the project:
“It makes me happy to make the cup holders,” she said. “I put emojis and hearts and stars on mine.”
Lilly, too, values the effort.
“I use rainbows and suns because they look pretty and make people smile.”
Ronin gets back what he puts into his designs.
“I feel nice when I do it,” he said. “I like to draw soldiers and flags and baseball people and team colors like Phillies and Eagles.”
That is the whole point, explained Irving whose class theme is "spreading the sunshine".
“Why be sad when you can be happy," she exclaimed.
And happy is what Wawa customers seem to feel when they pick up a coffee clutch or eye a colored page on the wall. Irving has started seeing comments on local social media about the Pennell effort. Which means more coloring to do.
“I saw someone write (on a local social media page) that they stopped at Wawa and took a cup holder and it turned their whole day around. Now the whole school makes the cup holders,” she said.
“Every grade and staff make them.”
Nearly 2,000 clutches have been designed at Pennell with the entire school and staff contributing. The demand continues.
“We cannot keep up with it. As soon as we empty a basket, we need to do more," said Irving
General Manager Hambridge is thrilled to have made this connection.
“We want to be in the community and a part of the community,” she said. “And we are somewhere that is a part of people’s daily routine, so there is an extra little kindness.”
For Kaiden Bard, the connection is simply a natural progression of the kindness he’s experienced his whole life in the district. After taking advantage of tuition reimbursement through a Wawa work program, five years later he is a couple of steps away from leading his own store and continuing relationships with education and Wawa.
“I’m very blessed to be a part of this Penn-Delco community, which is already as tight as it gets, and then going into the Wawa community, which is equally as tight knit,” he explained.
“I’ve had so much sense of community going to Penn-Delco, and Penn-State Brandywine and now a career at Wawa.”
It seems kindness has reached far beyond Aston, too. Irving reports hearing from travelers from Florida who stopped at the Aston Wawa and enjoyed colorful artwork on the coffee clutches, a wish from an entire school community.
“It takes more muscles to be mad than glad,” she quipped. “You don’t want to miss the opportunity to make someone else’s day.”