By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen

Elf on the Shelf sprinkles local magic
By Beth Volpert Johansen

There can be no doubt at all as to the existence of elfin magic. Christmas magic exists wherever excited children perceive an invisible connection to the grand elf himself.

Chan Elf Surprise190 It is a proven fact (see Miracle on 34th Street) that Santa is able to visit where and when he wishes, but, like any other international enterprise, he is grateful to the elves sitting on shelves who dutifully report directly to the North Pole. They may make a little mischief here and there, however their help makes Santa’s life just a little bit easier.

Left:  Chanda Bell brings a little elfin magic to the children at The PATH Project. 

The same can be said about help for the fine people who work at Creatively Classic Activities and Books (CCA & B, LLC®), the company that brings us The Elf on the Shelf. Elf on the Shelf book co-author, Chanda Bell, recently visited with a non-profit that is very near and dear to her heart. A local literacy program called The PATH Project, has certainly had a liberal amount of elfin magic sprinkled upon its outreach since the earliest days of its inception. “We go to church together,” explains PATH co-founder, Melinda Hollandsworth. “Chanda knew what we were doing and where we wanted to go with the program-to figure out what was really holding kids back from literacy and graduation.” Curriculum190

Right: The Elf on the Shelf website has ready made lesson plans arranged by grade level.

Intrigued by the project, Chanda met up with Melinda and Jim Hollandsworth one day in 2012 at Gwinnett Estates where they were working from tables and chairs they were hauling in and out of their cars. “She told us we needed a permanent place to work,” says Melinda. “It was scary for us, but Chanda is a dreamer-a vision person.” After that meeting, several things began to take form between the two entities. 
 
AnnistownAllen190Left: Terri Allen, counselor at Annistown Elementary enjoying time with the PATH kids.

Simply declaring the necessity of a permanent place to provide critical literacy services to children who need them was only the beginning of The Elf’s involvement. “When we officially started in 2012, it was The Elf on the Shelf’s team that came up with The PATH branding and marketing materials,” says Jim Hollandsworth. “They could have been in their offices, but instead, they offered us their creative minds.” 

AnnistownEvans190Right: Assistant Principal, Beverly Evans helping some of her students with Elf on the Shelf lessons. 

Combining gifts and talents for the greatest overall good is a philosophy shared by Chanda and Jim and Melinda. “We were so busy and consumed with the learning about the children in the neighborhood and developing a reading program which would be the most beneficial to struggling readers, we simply took the advice we were given by CCA and B,” says Melinda. Jim adds, “I think it is great the way business and non-profits can partner.”

ChanLauraRead190Left: Chanda and Laura read aloud in both English and Spanish.

When they began PATH, Jim was in full-time ministry and Melinda was a teacher. Business was not their strong suit.  “Chanda is so passionate about The PATH Project’s unique way we are changing communities from the inside,” says Jim. “She lives the Christmas spirit all year by providing us with involvement-not just gifts at Christmastime.” 

But Christmastime is special. Ask any little kid. Santa knows that and since Chanda works directly for Santa, she felt it in her heart to share her family’s Christmas tradition with the beautiful children of The PATH Project. Using her “teacher skills”, Chanda visited the Valley Brook PATH Project location where she introduced several excited children to THE Elf and read the story aloud to an eager crowd. Joining her was Path Project’s Laura who read the story in Spanish along with Chanda who read in English.

AnnistownBundschu190

ChanIntro190Much to the delight of the children, their school, Annistown Elementary was represented by their counselor, Terri Allen, Assistant Principal, Beverly Evans, and kindergarten teacher, Amy Bundschu. “This is just amazing what they are doing,” says Terri Allen. “We are so appreciative of The PATH Project and the support they give these kids-it makes us a part of the community and you can’t beat that.” 

Right: Amy Bundschu, kindergarten teacher at Annistown Elementary working with some of her students.

In addition to the Annistown staff, the children were assisted by some of the older PATH students who provided treats and helped the kids with fun learning activities provided by The Elf on the Shelf’s website. “Our website has lesson plans by grade level and some really fun games,” says Chanda. “There is a supply and demand game where the kids can sell cocoa to elves and see if they can make a profit which is very engaging.” 

ElfSurprise190

Following the book reading and activities, the children were each presented with a complete The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition boxset and Plushee Pal to take home. “I am honored and blessed God has given me the talent to write and tell stories,” says Chanda. “But when you layer on how it influences families, that is the real blessing.” Combining blessings with a little bit of Christmas magic yields a joy that shines brightly on the face of a child.