Graduate student Kyle-Lynn Tuttle, '16, organized a fall festival for her students at Abate Elementary School in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Last year, while serving as a building-based substitute at Harry F. Abate Elementary School in Niagara Falls, N.Y., Kyle-Lynn Tuttle, ’16, a graduate student in Niagara University’s College of Education, noticed that the children often needed gloves and hats to keep them warm during the cold winter months. To help meet this need, she established a Giving Tree in the school and kept it stocked with new hats, gloves, scarves, and socks.

“When students are cold or get sick, they can't learn,” she said. “If they can't focus on learning, they can't succeed.”

This year, although COVID-19 restrictions prevented her from setting up the tree, it didn’t deter her from helping her students. As part of her graduate work, she proposed a community-service project that would not only provide the needed outerwear for children, but also spread a little holiday cheer.

What was initially conceived as the “Abate Great Pumpkin Giveaway” ultimately became the Harvest Fest, a farmer’s market held on Oct. 28 in conjunction with the school’s free lunch pickup. The collaborative effort brought local farmers, businesses, and agencies together to offer free pumpkins, prewrapped treats, and gloves, hats, and scarves to the students. Kyle-Lynn, who attended Abate as a child, contacted the organizations and coordinated the donations, which included 650 sets of gloves, hats, and scarves; more than 450 pairs of socks; 500 pumpkins; more than 400 apples; 300 loaves of bread; hundreds of jars of peanut butter and jelly; more than 75 backpacks; ear warmers; warm blankets; and Halloween-themed literacy packets. 

Partners included Baker Farms, Senek Farms, Catholic Health, The Little Bakery, Niagara University’s Levesque Institute for Civic Engagement, Pinnacle Family Services, the Niagara Falls fire and police departments, the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office, Integrity Landscaping, members of Niagara Falls City Council and the Niagara Falls Board of Education, Frankie’s Doughnuts, the Village Bake Shoppe, TReC, and members of the administration, counseling, and social work teams at Abate.

Kyle-Lynn contributed more than 100 pairs of gloves, hats, and scarves to kick off the donation drive, and then worked with volunteers to put them in bags for safe distribution. The three-hour event took weeks of planning and hands-on work, but “seeing hundreds of students’ faces smiling, excited, and enjoying themselves at a time when so much has been cancelled, or put on hold, is humbling and satisfying,” Kyle-Lynn said.