Vineyard students share spirit of giving
From left, Oak Bluffs School students Tim Cormier Rebello, Jesse Thomas, Ramon Espino, Kelsey DeBettencourt and Della Burke, and in back, Chris Parsons, proudly display their backpack creations. Photo by Ralph Stewart
In the true spirit of the season, sixth-graders in Oak Bluffs School and Edgartown School are reaching out to make Christmas a little brighter for children who are victims of Hurricane Katrina.
"We have stuff, but the kids in Louisiana lost all their things," said Della Burke, a sixth-grader at Oak Bluffs School. "It's just a little bit we can give back."
Students in teacher Nancy Nash's family and consumer science classes (FACS) at the two Island schools created and sewed 40 flannel backpacks that will be shipped off this week for distribution to children in Louisiana. Each one is filled with a book and small stuffed animal, labeled on the front for the appropriate sex and age of the recipient. Some of the students also tucked a handwritten note inside.
Ms. Nash said she mentioned the project to a few of her friends, and they came through with enough donations of books and stuffed animals that she did not have to make a wide appeal.
She plans to ship the backpacks Thursday to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) in Baldwin, Louisiana, an agency that was recommended by a consultant at the Oak Bluffs School who is from New Orleans.
Contacted by telephone on Tuesday, Kristy Parker, a hurricane evacuee employed by UMCOR, said that her organization operates the only major distribution center in Louisiana and delivers supplies to the most needy areas every day.
She wanted Ms. Nash and the children to know they made the right choice in donating their backpacks to UMCOR. "We have a great need for Christmas gifts for children," Ms. Parker said.
The backpacks are part of Ms. Nash's "sewing for others project" in her sixth-grade curriculum, following the students introduction to sewing in fifth grade. "We do it because it feels good," said Ms. Nash.
For the last three years, her sixth-grade classes made baby blankets and donated them to the hospital. "This year, I wanted to do something for the victims of Hurricane Katrina," she said.
Ms. Nash took a backpack design she saw at a teachers' conference a few years ago and altered it to make it kid-sized. The backpacks the students made feature a soft flannel sack with a drawstring closure at top and cotton rope handles on both sides.
The students picked their choice of flannel color and pattern. The more confident sewers added a decorative felt star on front. The most fun part, said Ramon Espino, an Oak Bluffs School student, was hammering in the grommets for the drawstring closure.
"This is not about sewing," Ms. Nash said of her class. "It is all about them creating something they treasure."
This certainly was the case for Ramon, who said the most difficult part of the project was, "Giving it away."
Recognizing her students' attachment to their projects, Ms. Nash said they will have the opportunity to make backpacks for themselves after the holidays.
Ms. Nash has taught in the Island schools for over 10 years. She teaches FACS two and a half days each at Oak Bluffs School and Edgartown School.