For Nathan Hogue, it started with the glass coin jar sitting on John Rigby’s desk. As a third grader, he knew about it, was interested in it, watched it as its level of coins rose. And even though Mr. Rigby taught fourth grade, Nathan knew the reason the Giving Jar was on Mr. Rigby’s desk.

“Nathan has a huge heart,” said Mr. Rigby. “The Giving Jar captured his imagination.”

The Giving Jar came about as a result of Rigby’s multiple trips to the Mississippi Gulf coast to work with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

As a fourth grader, Nathan heard more about Mr. Rigby’s enthusiasm for the recovery effort on the Gulf coast. So when it came time for the Mustang Big Give, that enthusiasm had worked its way into Nathan’s heart, and he chose to send his donation to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.

“It’s just really nice to help someone out,” Nathan said.

The Mustang Big Give, named after the school’s mascot, was Rigby’s idea. Mr. Rigby wrote and received a grant from the school district in Woodstock, Ill., where Olson Elementary School is located. The grant would match up to $10 per student in Mr. Rigby’s class for any money each student raised for their chosen charity. Mr. Rigby’s fourth grade class raised $1,050, outside of the school district grant, which was gived to 15 different charities.

Nathan’s charity, PDA, received $13 from Nathan, which he raised by collecting and recycling aluminum cans. At 35 cents per pound, that was a lot of aluminum cans. He asked the neighbors to leave the cans outside for him.

“I went down my block and collected the cans. When I took them to the recycling center, they put them on a big conveyor belt into a big bin which compacted them,” Nathan said.

“The van was stuffed full, we had so many aluminum cans,” said Katherine Hogue, Nathan’s mother. Calling Mr. Rigby a “super, super teacher,” Mrs. Hogue noted that this effort helped the children in the class think “outside their comfort zone, about others who are in need.”

And that was largely the purpose of the Mustang Big Give.

“Most of the students got the idea that kids can make a difference,” said Mr. Rigby.

He saw the students become aware of how many needs there are.
“I could see them wrestling with the choices of knowing that if they choose one charity, another will do without. Some of them had to do some soul-searching.”

The work Mr. Rigby did in Mississippi inspired a passion in him. He ended up going to the Gulf coast to work seven times. It was this passion that Nathan saw and pursued with his own giving.

A member of First Presbyterian Church in Woodstock, Rigby wanted to spend his winter break in December 2005, following that year’s August storm, working on hurricane relief. At the urging of his pastor, he found PDA online and connected with the efforts in D’Iberville, MS. Two of his daughters, Jessie and Nicole, accompanied him on that trip. Eventually his wife, Marla, and other daughter, Ryan, made the trip as well.

And so, that passion for mission work and the relief efforts on the coast was brought into his classroom in the form of a jar and a giving effort. It was there that 10-year- old Nathan Hogue, whose family is Lutheran, found PDA and reached out through the Presbyterian Church to those in need, a pound of aluminum at a time.

“One in the Spirit” is a monthly email from General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC) Executive Director Linda Valentine “strengthening community between the GAMC and middle governing bodies.”

Janet Tuck is director of communications for the Synod of Living Waters and a Mission Communications Associate in Communications and Funds Development ministry of the General Assembly Mission Council.