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February 3, 2016

St. Mary’s students help the needy

KIDSBob Ellis/staff photographer
Zane Moheimani, right, works with other sixth-grade students Tuesday at St.
Mary’s School to pack backpacks with supplies for needy school children.

By LEANN HLEBICA
Staff Reporter
lhlebica@cortlandstandardnews.net

Students from St. Mary’s School happily grabbed puppets, T-shirts, pencils and notebooks to stuff into backpacks that will be donated to local kids.
“I think it’s important because there’s kids who really need this stuff, more than we do, and it feels good to be helping,” sixth-grader Annie Austin said Tuesday during the book-stuffing frenzy.
Students at the Catholic school filled 152 backpacks for both the SevenValleys Health Coalition’sBackpacks for Kids In Careprogram and the YWCA’s Bridges For Kids program.The backpacks were filled with clothing, toys, books, personal hygiene products and age-appropriate toys.
The entire student population met in the cafeteria, where there were donated items arranged neatly on the tables.
“We incorporate service lessons individually,” Principal Denise Hall said. “Our individual classes will work on a service project but this is the first year we’ve done something all together as a school.”
The students included personal notes inside the bags for the recipient of the backpack.
“You’re awesome,” and “I’m really thinking about you,” were some of the messages sent Tuesday.
Kindergarten teacher Lori Prince said that doing service projects, like the backpack donations, are beneficial to her 5- and 6-year-olds because it teaches them that even at their age, they can still make adifference.
According to Jackie Leaf, executive director at Seven Valleys Health Coalition,the backpack program was started through LeadershipCortland, and the coalition took over the program in 2010.The bags are assembled and given to Child Protective Services officials for when a child is placed in foster care ortemporary housing.
“It’s so important for the child to feel like they have something that is theirs,” Leaf saidTuesday.
The backpacks donated to the Bridges for Kids program go to children in the program who could benefit from extra school supplies or books.
“This is amazing for the kids to be the ones giving to other kids,” Shannon Braddick, SUNY Cortland intern for the YWCA, said Tuesday.
Braddick collected eight backpacks to take to the Bridges for Kids children.
Organizer of Backpacks for Kids In Care, Christella Yonta, explained that it is a wonderful item for the children to get when they first go into a new home. She said it allows time for them to become comfortable with their new provider about asking for items such as deodorant or a toothbrush.
Yonta said that roughly100 children received backpacks last year, either through the county Department of Social Services or the Bridges for Kids program. Usually, the organization holds a fundraiser requesting donations, but this yearSt. Mary’s School has fulfilled the need. Yonta said they will still accept donations throughout the year.

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