By Katie Fallon

In what was reminiscent of an early Christmas present from Santa Claus, the students at Heards Ferry Elementary School were given a special gift courtesy of the Rotary Club of Sandy Springs.

In their second annual distribution, the club gave dictionaries to every third grader at the Sandy Springs elementary school on the morning of Oct. 9.

Several club members, as well as Mayor Eva Galambos, Councilman Rusty Paul and Heards Ferry Principal Susan Dorenkamp, made rounds to each third grade classroom to personally distribute the reference books to each student.

Heards Ferry kicked off the dictionary project with the club’s first delivery and the Rotarians have since made similar deliveries to the Schenck School and Spalding Drive Charter Elementary School. Upcoming deliveries will also be made this month to Woodland, High Point and Dunwoody Springs Elementary Schools.

Club member Keith Cooper, who helped organize the Dictionary Project, said many Rotary clubs use the dictionary giveaways as a community outreach project to fulfill the Rotary’s credo of “Service Above Self.” The group actually performed their first dictionary delivery in February as part of the last school year In the future, the club plans to deliver the dictionaries shortly after the beginning of each school year in the Fall.

Because traditional dictionaries tend to be both cumbersome and heavy, the Rotary Club decided on a more child-friendly version that can be easily carried by the student.

“The dictionaries tend to be big,” Cooper said. “These are not big. These are kids’ dictionaries.”

The books, however, are not the average dictionary. In addition to having special sections containing commonly misspelled words or other quick reference categories, the dictionaries also have appendices with maps, lists of foreign countries, key historical facts and dates, the Declaration of Independence and even lessons on how a bill becomes a law.

“I’m thrilled about this,” Cooper said. “This is a wonderful dictionary.”

Each student also received a letter in both English and Spanish to give to their parents that explained where the dictionaries came from as well as why the Rotary Club sees it as a fitting gift. In addition, a special sticker with the Rotary Club four-point test and a sport for each child’s name was inserted in each dictionary to be stuck to the inside cover page.

Each time the Rotarians visited a new classroom at Heards Ferry, the reaction was the same. Students started whispering to each other as soon as the club members entered the room. After receiving their own personal dictionary, each student eagerly grabbed a Sharpie to print their name on the cover page of the book.

Cooper said the pleased reactions continue after the Rotarians have left.

“It’s unbelievable,” Cooper said. “You wouldn’t believe the materials we get back from the kids…letters, big posters made up of pictures and notes and things, signs, photos albums.”

As Galambos also made the rounds to the third grade classrooms, she challenged the students to make a game out of the dictionaries. She proposed that each student take their dictionary home, find the most difficult word to spell and then challenge their parents to see if they could spell it too.

Although the students were not quite sure what the Rotary Club does, they were quick to point out the importance of dictionaries in learning how to spell, pronounce, count syllables and learn the part of speech of their favorite words.

Councilman Paul agreed the dictionaries were perfect presents for the eight and nine year old students.

“Education has changes a lot since I was in school, but one thing has not,” Paul said. You get your first dictionary in third grade.”

“This is one of the most important books you’ll ever get,” Paul told the students. “It will give you every word you’ll ever need to use for the rest of your life.”

For more information on the Sandy Springs Rotary Club’s Dictionary Project, visit