The usual sounds of a school; bells ringing, lockers shutting, kids walking to classes, all disappeared overnight last March at St. Katherine's Day School in Wynnewood.
"When we put the kids on the bus, that was the last time we saw them until September this year," said Merrissa Curtis, who's a support teacher for children with autism. She didn't lose contact with her class of five.
"Once everything happened and COVID happened and riots happened, that's when I found out that families didn't have food," she said.
HOMETOWN HERO! Merrissa Curtis is a special ed teacher at St. Katherine’s Day School in Wynnewood. When the pandemic hit and the kids went home, she found out some of the families couldn’t afford to eat. She started the non-profit “We All Smile” to help buy them groceries! @6abc pic.twitter.com/UzFEMUPBs8— Beccah Hendrickson (@Beccah6abc) December 2, 2020
She didn't wait another beat. She started raising money, enlisting the help of her gymnastics studio, and hand-delivering groceries to her students.
Word spread, and the service grew 25 families, and the "We All Smile" foundation was born. So far, she and her team have raised over $5,000 and held two food drives.
"The fact that she was able to physically go and deliver these things really brightened their day," said Melissa Mininno, a counselor at the school.
When the kids came back, the service didn't stop.
"It's just being there and showing that other people in their lives care about them," said Allie Dilks, who also teaches special education at St. Katherine's.
Now, Curtis' classroom is empty again. All schools in Montgomery County are empty for two weeks, but she's still giving her students something to smile about. She's wrapping Christmas presents, pajamas and a book, simple things to spread some holiday cheer.
"It's a hard, hard year for a lot of people, but there's also so much good of watching communities and people come together," said Curtis.