Some of McDowell County’s senior citizens had a little more holiday cheer than usual thanks to a group of young folks.

The K-1-2 class at Pleasant Gardens Elementary School put together “blessing bags” that were distributed to homebound elderly residents through the McDowell Senior Center’s Meals on Wheels program.

The students in the class, taught by Sandra Queen and Cyndi Pendley, filled 165 bags with useful items like fuzzy blankets, warm socks, candy, combs, lotion, tissues, pens and note pads. Each bag also contained an original Christmas card illustrated by the students.

Students and their families contributed items and money to the project, and the group also got some help from Walmart, a local church and several individuals.

Each year, Queen’s class undertakes what she calls kindness projects, doing two per year, one during each semester. In the spring, the children will turn their attention toward the county’s animal rescue organizations.

Queen, a longtime local educator, said teaching children to think of those less fortunate is as important a lesson as anything else they’ll learn in school.

“My students stay with me for three years and we really do become like family,” she said. “I am responsible for educating their hearts and characters as well as their minds. I want them to become good human beings as well as excellent scholars.”

Last school year, one the class’s projects was assembling bags that can be kept in your car and given to homeless people. Those bags included things like hand warmers, snacks and personal hygiene products. The other campaign provided personal toiletry bags for the county’s middle school students who move from home to home and don’t really have beds to call their own.

Queen is convinced the kindness projects will have a lasting effect on her young students.

“I can see and hear a difference in my kids, since we began helping others in our county,” she said. “They are kinder and more considerate to each other than they were in the past. Now I hear conversations between kids about helping others. That alone makes the hard work worthwhile.”

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