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Celebrate by giving

Cory Pinkerton said soldiers receiving their gifts wouldn't feel as lonely because they'll know there are people back home that care about them.

Pinkerton and 200 other Oltman Middle School eighth-graders from Merlin House, took a day off recently, but they didn't go skating or to a movie. They spent Dec. 8 celebrating the first three months of school by giving to others during a service-learning day.

Some of the activities included volunteering at Armstrong Elementary School, playing Bingo with elderly people at Norris Square, working at Feed My Starving Children and Second Harvest Food Shelf and making cards and "hug" boxes for those in the military serving in Afghanistan.

They also decorated jars donated by the Stone Soup Thrift Store, located near the school, and made jewelry and bookmarks. Jars and jewelry will be sold at the store.

Even though the purpose was to give time to help others, Merlin teachers and counselor Amanda Kauth didn't want the projects to involve students giving money they might not easily afford.

Instead, they use recycled items from the thrift store and what they had on hand.

Samantha Peterson, Alex Waldo and Alyssa Volmer-Johnson volunteered to help Armstrong Elementary School kindergartners make holiday ornaments and play games.

"I love kindergartners," said Volmer-Johnson to the children at a table in the hallway outside the classrooms. "They rock."

At Oltman, some students wrote poems and letters to those serving in the military.

Some are former Oltman students, Kauth said.

The project had special meaning for Kay Strauss. She wrote letters while thinking of a family friend who just left to serve in Afghanistan.

Other students made "hug" boxes.

Without much instruction, Kauth said, students made small boxes decorated with wrapping paper. Inside the boxes is this message:

"This is a very special gift

That you can never see.

The reason it's so special is

It's just for you, from me.

Whenever you get lonely

Or are ever feeling blue

You only have to hold this gift

And know I'm hugging you."

Rodney Wilson said he improved his classwork so he didn't have to spend the service-learning day doing homework as other students did who are behind in their work.

He made jewelry to sell at the thrift store and was surprised that he enjoyed doing it.

"Everybody got to show their creative side," said Annabelle Vang.

Kalia Thao said she got to know her fellow students better and met some new friends.

Trazjaia Wilson agreed. "A lot of people found they have more in common with other kids than they thought they did," she said.

Aubrey Asleson is delighted to think someone is going to buy the jewelry she made.

Wilson said spending the day helping others was fun.

"Fun with benefits," Wilson said.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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