After the joyous season of Christmas, K-1-2 students at Pleasant Gardens Elementary are learning the importance of helping those less fortunate.

“The way the world is right now I wanted to talk to the kids about being kind and thinking about other people,” said teacher Sandra Queen, “So the first thing we did when we came back (from Christmas break) was go outside at 8:30 a.m. with no coats on to know what it feels like to be homeless. “

“We wanted to think about when the homeless people sleep out in the very cold and see how that feels so we know how they feel every night,” said first-grader Lily Shaw.

Once inside and warmed up, students brainstormed and came up with the Kindness Begins with Me Project.

“We talked about homeless people in our county and how lots of the kids have seen people who need help,” said Queen.

For several weeks, students and families donated a variety of items to the school to fill gallon-size Ziploc bags called “blessing bags” to distribute to the homeless. They also collected coats and blankets.

“The kids came up with things I wouldn’t have thought of, like playing cards. They said they don’t have a TV, so maybe they could play cards with a friend,” said Queen.

Each child will bring a blessing bag home with them to distribute to someone they see who might need it. They are donating the blankets and coats to the men’s and women’s homeless shelter in McDowell County, and plan to also give blessing bags to law enforcement for them to hand out as they see fit.

“It makes me feel really good because they don’t get anything, especially for Christmas,” said second-grader Jenna Shuping.

The thought of a less fortunate child touched kindergartener Brooklyn Davis’ heart.

“It makes me sad because they don’t have anything to play with,” she said.

Students formed an assembly line in the classroom where they stuffed the bags full with socks, snacks, candy, water, toiletries, hand warmers and other necessities.

“It makes me feel happy because homeless people are going to get a lot of stuff,” said second-grader Gracie Poteat.

The students also placed a handwritten note inside of the bags to let the recipients know they are thinking of them and praying for them.

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