NEWTON -- Cheers and applause from hundreds of Chisholm Middle School students greeted the line of fire trucks, ambulances and police vehicles that pulled into the school's parking lot on Wednesday afternoon.
The first responders were not racing to an emergency — rather, they were invited to the school as part of an annual community service day that involved all the middle school students.
Terry Scates, an intellectual/developmental disability teacher at CMS, led the organization of the different activities in which students could participate.
"We had groups who went caroling this morning, groups who made things for first responders and groups who made materials for SafeHope, for the homeless shelter and some of the nursing homes," Scates said.
While some middle schoolers went to locations around Newton — including banks, stores, coffee shops and retirement homes — to sing Christmas carols, others spent time making treats for employees of Newton's police, fire and emergency medical services departments.
Hugs, high fives and handshakes were exchanged between the students and the first responders as the bags of goodies were presented to them.
Eighth grader Ellie Harder said she was excited to participate in the community service day for the second year.
Harder and her classmates made batches of peppermint almond bark. The candy was packaged in large, brightly-colored gift bags along with other snacks — chocolate-covered pretzels, ranch-flavored oyster crackers and chocolate-drizzled popcorn — for each shift of personnel at the Newton Police Department and Newton Fire/EMS Department.
"All the classes contributed to this," Harder said. "...We wanted to thank them for all they do for us."