SULLIVAN, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Second-grade teacher, Rya Hamilton, carries on a community service project started by her late mother.

After losing her stepfather on Valentine’s Day in 2020, Rya Hamilton and her mother started ‘Legacy of Love’ to remember him and give back to the community.

Earlier this year, Hamilton unexpectedly lost her mother. Through those difficult emotions of losing her mom, she knew she wanted to continue on the legacy they started together, only this year, she wanted to make it bigger, to carry on the tradition of her mother’s giving heart.

“It’s humbling. Because I knew what a wonderful person my mom was,” Hamilton said. “But to have other people join in and honor her, it’s amazing and I appreciate it,” Hamilton added.

Hamilton describes her late mother as someone who was always ready to give. She said her mother was always asking her what her students needed and always picked up extra coats, hats, and gloves as well as classroom supplies to have on hand for students in need.

Mrs. Hamilton’s second-grade class chose three local organizations they wanted to help and set up a school-wide collection for the agencies.

‘Legacy of Love’ at Sullivan Elementary School, collected over 400 pounds of pet food, along with litter and supplies for the Sullivan County Humane Shelter. They collected coloring books, bubbles, and stuffed animals to help brighten a child’s stay at Sullivan County Community Hospital and they collected bags, clothing, toiletries, and more for the Department of Child Services.

Second grader, Gracelynn Witvoet was proud of their efforts, especially Mrs. Hamilton’s.

“She made it bigger, and she knows her Mom would be really proud,” Witvoet said.

On this Valentine’s Day, the entire school presented its generous contributions. Mrs. Hamilton’s class helped pack and load donations for the local agencies, and everyone’s hearts grew a little larger.

“I hope that the kids understand exactly what they’ve done today, by impacting so many lives,” Hamilton added.