A close-knit community
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Debbie Mallory didn't tear up when a Bridgeview Elementary student gave her a yellow carnation after school on Thursday. Mallory, a crossing guard who has volunteered at the school for nearly 20 years, is used to acts of kindness because she often dishes them out herself.
The tears fell, though, once she realized that more and more students filing out of class after school held a flower in their hands just for her.
She received 99 more, to be exact.
Teachers and staff at the South Charleston school surprised Mallory with the 100 carnations to show their appreciation for her unwavering thoughtfulness and compassion.
"You guys are going to make me cry," she said as she patted one student on the head. "Thank you, baby," she said as she hugged another youngster.
Just this week, amid frigid temperatures, Mallory - often referred to as "Miss Debbie" -- passed out dozens of scarves to students as they entered the school.
"Some of their little noses and ears were red, and I couldn't stand it. A lot of them don't have good jackets or gloves or hats. I love my kids," she said.
Mallory, 50, helps students safely cross the streets to school every morning around 7:30 a.m. and again after school. She's been doing that for nearly half her life, following in the footsteps of her father.
The father-daughter duo used to alternate shifts, but when he got sick, Debbie took over.
"I've been accused of being too much of a cheery morning person, but you've got to be. Kids have to learn to pass it on," she said. "The only bad part about doing this is that kids grow up. I see them out and remember them and let them know that I miss them, but it makes you feel old seeing them grow so fast."
Bridgeview Principal Candace Strader said Mallory is a welcoming spirit at their "close-knit" school.
"She's very caring, and we wanted to show her that we appreciate all that she does. We look out for each other at this school," Strader said.
But Mallory says it just comes natural. It's what anyone would do, she said.
"I'd like to think that a lot of people would help out kids in the cold. I know a lot of West Virginians would; that's what they do," she said. "That's why I love it here. We care about people."
Reach Mackenzie Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4814.