While leading the way to his different Christmas village displays, Brett Sherwood stops to speak with a young boy who has called out to him: “Mr. Brett!”
The boy takes Sherwood’s hand and the two walk together to the boy’s destination.
“This is why I do all this stuff, these little guys, sharing Christmas,” said Sherwood. “Off you go buddy!”
Sherwood is the daytime custodian at South Broadview Elementary. Though he’s worked on and off at the school since he was employed by School District 83 in 2017, this year is the first he’s been able to set up pieces of his extensive Christmas village collection at the school.
“I asked permission from the principal and that was it. I just came in on my day off and it took me five hours to set up,” said Sherwood. “If I set everything up that I have, it’s three times that size and takes two days!”
Sherwood has set up multiple village scenes, complete with snow, at various locations in the school. The largest, with animated and musical pieces, covers two eight-foot tables.
“I like to share Christmas with people,” said Sherwood, who used to set his collection up at Centenoka Park Mall. “It’s just an enjoyable thing for me. When I set something like this up and I see the smile on people’s faces, it’s all worthwhile.”
Sherwood’s mother gave him his first village pieces as a gift.
“When my mom bought me the first village, it was five or six pieces of what really looks like a village – thatched roofs, old-school, a hundred years ago village – and that just started to snowball and I just kept collecting,” said Sherwood, guessing he’s been collecting for about 26 years.
“A lot of them are antiques and a lot of them are special edition. I’ve got some there that are Norman Rockwell; they took a Norman Rockwell painting and turned it into a little house, and it’s got people inside.”
Sherwood says the response from the students has been amazing.
“Every time they go by it’s, ‘I see that! I didn’t see that!’ There’s a school there with two or three school buses sitting in front, and they go look at the school buses. One kid went and counted all the Santa Clauses. Apparently there’s seven.”
Principal Heather Gobbett said Sherwood’s spirit and generosity has been “catchy.”
“We’ve been doing a generosity campaign and I think, honestly Brett, what you’ve done there has really kind of helped us create that spirit in the school,” said Gobbett. Over 12 school days in December, the school PAC (parent advisory council) along with its Grade 5 leadership students, organized a food drive where students are collecting food for Christmas hampers to help local families.
Sherwood is happy to help bring a little bit of Christmas joy to the kids at the school.
“It’s a pretty tough time that we’re in right now and anything I can do that puts a smile on these kids’ faces, that’s what it’s all about,” said Sherwood. “That’s why I’m a school custodian, because we all take care of these kids. We all do. It’s like a community – a big family.
“I was here a few years ago and one of the parents of a child that really liked me, I used to walk him into class, made me up a T-shirt. And all the kids here, they don’t say Mr. Sherwood. They say Mr. Brett! And that’s my name here, Mr. Brett.”
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