Staff with the ARK Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Shelter welcomed a group of Early High School students to shelter’s offices Wednesday and were delighted when the students presented the shelter with a check for just over $2,000.

Members of the after-school organization Early Community Problem Solvers and their coach, retired Early educator Diann Biddle, visited the ARK offices on Coggin Avenue and presented the check to ARK office staff.

The funds represented fund-raising efforts by the students, whose activities included asking businesses for sponsorship. Earlier the group presented supplies to enable improvements to the shelter’s living quarters.

ARK program director Savannah Cox and community educator Lisa Caldwell reacted with amazement and gratitude when they realized the amount of the donation.

The students are part of the Early school district’s gifted and talented program — known as LIFT, or Learning Involvement For Tomorrow — and they compete in the Future Problem Solving Program. As a component of LIFT, students under Biddle’s direction formed the voluntary Community Problem Solvers last year.

Early Community Problem Solvers was initially formed with a small group of students at Early Middle School, where Biddle was the gifted and talented teacher until retiring last year. This year, organization is in its first year at Early High School.

Students in the group decided to help the ARK this year because one of its members, freshman Cooper Neel, has a sister who volunteers at the shelter. 

The students learned about domestic abuse and “it really opened their eyes,” Biddle said. “Unfortunately, we’re keeping up with the big cities.”

Early Police Chief David Mercer and ARK community educator Lisa Caldwell visited the school and talked to the students about domestic abuse, Biddle said.

The donation wasn’t the students’ first effort to help the ARK. Earlier this year, students raised funds to buy six “start-up kits” for ARK clients which contained items including pillows, sheets, dishes, utensils, detergent and soap. The students also raised money for improvements to the living quarters and spent two weekends painting and hanging pictures.

“This is a special group of kids,” Biddle said.