Carroll County pupils have already started getting into the giving spirit of the holidays.
Food, clothes and toy drives are as big a part of the school day as math and history lessons.
"The kids mostly bring food in directly off the bus to a box in the front hallway," said Ann Horner, Mount Airy Elementary School's guidance counselor who is spearheading the annual Mount Airy Jaycees food drive.
"It's a school community [effort], and we all pitch in," Horner said. "[Mount Airy] is a very good and giving community and we like to keep encouraging that. We're part of the community, and we do what we can."
This year, the school added toiletries to its list of needs, and whatever the Jaycees don't use will go to Mount Airy NET, a community outreach program, Horner said.
A number of schools support the Harvest for the Hungry "Kids Helping Kids" food campaign for the Maryland Food Bank. Others hold food drives for local organizations.
Recipients include Carroll County Food Sunday, Human Services Programs, the Northeast Social Action Program, Salvation Army, Westminster Rescue Mission and needy families in the community.
The pupils wage campaigns to encourage donations. They make morning announcements, display posters and ads, mark graph charts of donations, and visit classrooms to exhort the spirit of giving.
Northwest Middle School's Kids Helping Kids Club sponsors a food drive for Harvest for the Hungry, "but everything we collect stays to help the people in Carroll County," said Ellen Bower, the club's faculty leader.
The club, which has 96 pupils, and 23 parents spent Thursday afternoon weighing, sorting and boxing hundreds of canned and boxed foods that were brought in since last month.
"The whole school participates and we do a little contest to see which homeroom collects the most," Bower said. "The homeroom with the most in weight will get to spray the principal's hair with the color of their choice, and get pizza."
One homeroom collected almost 500 cans, Bower said. The entire school -- the administrative and guidance offices, gym, special-education area and kitchen -- participates in the food drive.
Later this month, the Northwest students will make sandwiches to take to Baltimore for Our Daily Bread, a soup kitchen in the city. In December, they will make shoebox gifts for a children's hospital in Baltimore.
William Winchester Elementary's third-grade pupils collect food for the Westminster Rescue Mission every year, said teacher Helen Armacost.
"Our needy neighbors is our focus," Armacost said.
William Winchester's guidance counselor Renae Butler handles the Giving Tree, set up by the Students Helping Other People group. The tree accepts toys, games, books, hats and gloves that go to the Human Services Programs' Neighbors in Need holiday shop.
"Some of our families here at the school are needy families, and the students see that," Butler said. "We also adopt families during the holidays."
The schools contribute to the Human Services Programs and Carroll County Food Sunday.
"We do get tremendous support from the schools," said Human Services deputy director Holly Hutchins. "Last year we helped almost 3,000 individuals. We could not do it without the support of the schools and our other partners."
Food Sunday served 450 families from three distribution sites last year, said Dennis Fahey, food bank coordinator. They were helped by 11 schools that donated 11,088 pounds of food during the holidays -- the amount normally handed out every week and a half.
"It really does help out because our diet is rather basic and we get treats the people normally don't get when we have these food drives," Fahey said. "The people that come in here need it."