- Associated Press - Monday, March 17, 2014

ENID, Okla. (AP) - For 10 years, students at Oklahoma Bible Academy have participated in a program that helps a person or family in need, while teaching students what it means to truly give.

Students Performing Unselfish Deeds, or SPUD as it’s known to the 270-plus students at the school, chooses an area family that needs help to get back on track, not just a financial handout.

Headmaster Dallas Caldwell said the program does more than provide financial support, it provides a way out from under a problem.

“Our students and our folks and our schools, we find a family that maybe mom’s been diagnosed with cancer or the child has some catastrophic illness and what has happened is we’ve learned they’re facing a spiritual crisis, emotional crisis, and with the medical issues you have a financial crisis our students identify,” he told The Enid News & Eagle (http://bit.ly/1fOKktE).

“Last year, we helped a family and dad who was diagnosed with cancer, and they had some needs that just couldn’t be met.”

He said students raised between $30,000 and $35,000 to help that family.

“It’s not just handing them a bunch of money. It’s trying to identify what bills are keeping them down,” Caldwell said. “Sometimes they need financial advice. Sometimes they just need someone to reorganize a loan or pay for a little legal help.

“This family had several bills that were very cumbersome, and if they could get out from under them they could make it on their own.”

He said with the money raised through SPUD, the family was able to pay off enough bills to make it on their own.

“We just help. That’s what we want to do,” Caldwell said. “Sometimes you hurt people by helping. Helping doesn’t just mean handing people money. It’s showing them how to invest it, where to spend it.”

Teacher and student council adviser Jenelle Crismas said the idea was brought to her by two students.

“I am the student council adviser, and two of my boys on student council 10 years ago heard about it at a state convention and made it their own,” she said. “Their goal was to raise $10,000, and I laughed at them. Then they said OK $5,000.”

Crismas said she thought they would be lucky raise a few thousand dollars.

“We raised $13,000 that very first year,” she said.

The first person helped by SPUD was a 7-year-old girl who had been diagnosed with leukemia. Crismas said the student council would go and visit the girl. Now that same girl attends OBA.

She said another woman they helped also had cancer. The next year, she came to the school to help with SPUD.

“Now her son attends here because she wanted him at OBA,” Crismas said.

She said she had a seventh-grade student who grew up with SPUD, and every week he would bring her a bag of change to help.

“His dad was really sick and we helped them out,” Crismas said. SPUD was able to help that boy’s family pay off a vehicle and their home. She said she had a student once give her all the baby-sitting money she earned over the summer.

Crismas said most are hesitant at first at being offered the help, but generally they open up to the students.

“We just kind of come in and alleviate,” she said. “We want to develop a relationship.”

Students look forward to SPUD all year, Crismas said, and even more to SPUD week. The week features an auction during which students can win items donated by a teacher. There is also a talent show called “SPUD Idol.’”

This year’s SPUD events were held the last week of February and included suppers and lunches, special treats from teachers and a lunch day Chick-fil-A. The week also included dodge ball, three-on-three basketball and volleyball tournaments.

Crismas said students save up all year for the auctions because of the special treats some items include.

“A teacher might bring a student a Sonic drink at lunch once a week for the entire year,” she explained. “Or a teacher might take you out to lunch if you win.”

Student body president Hannah Jackson said the students seek out donations from the teachers for the SPUD auctions. She said one teacher once donated “nothing,” just to see how charitable the students could be.

“Some teachers will do soda, pizza and a movie in class, or they’ll do notes for the year, so they don’t have to write notes,” she said. “Some teachers might do doughnuts in the morning or a picnic lunch.

“It’s really fun and exciting,” Jackson said. “We have fun events every night.”

Students also enjoy meeting the people who benefit from the SPUD program, Jackson said.

“It’s really nice because it’s a local family, and we get to meet them,” she said. “It’s a lot more personal than some causes.”

Caldwell said SPUD week involves a lot of people giving in different ways.

“Our kids get to see there are tangible ways to help. Our kids love it,” he said. “In society there are givers and there are takers, and our faith kind of demands that we be givers. Our faith says we’ve been given a lot.

“The Bible teaches to whom much is given, much is required.”

Crismas said one of the staff best summed up how SPUD week is perceived from the outside.

“As a new teacher said last year, ‘It just feels like family. The spirit around here is so family oriented.’”

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Information from: Enid News & Eagle, http://www.enidnews.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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