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    By Todd Martin

    A day before letting out of school for the holiday, 160 Union Grove Middle School students fanned out across the community for a day of service.

    The students, representing six organizations on campus, served through the morning Thursday at 14 sites in Killeen and Harker Heights, reading to children, cleaning a homeless shelter, preparing clothes for distribution and lots more.

    They represented AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), Student Council, National Junior Honor Society, Technology Club, Junior Student 2 Student and the newly formed Grizzlies Groundskeepers volunteer group.

    Talking about the service-minded students, teacher Vicki Osborne said, “these are your leaders.”

    She spent the morning at the Friends in Crisis homeless shelter with 10 students. “A lot of students wanted to do this. It’s the giving back they like,” the teacher said.

    “It’s really good,” said eighth-grader Jasmine Crutcher, explaining how students did laundry, folded sheets, made beds, mopped floors and cleaned the shelter in downtown Killeen.

    “It’s a day of service,” she said. “We’re going out to places to help people in need. I think it shows we care. We want to give to the community.”

    Seventh-grader Cooper Gearhart, also at the homeless shelter, said the day was about helping those in need.

    “I like to give back,” he said. “We’re helping the homeless, making sure they have nice fitted sheets and blankets. It’s important to make this a nice place.”

    “These kids are good,” said Osborne. “They have such a giving heart. Given an opportunity, they will rise to the occasion. The people who live here are family. This is our hometown.”

    Down the road, another group of Union Grove students wore Salvation Army aprons to help deliver bags of gifts and bicycles to clients arriving at the organization’s thrift store.

    “It’s helping the community,” said eighth-grader Madi Kurz. “We’re delivering toys to those in need by bringing out the bags and bikes.”

    The work, she said, made her feel grateful. “It humbles us to realize what we have. It’s also fun to help.”

    AVID teacher Keri Luepke worked alongside the students at the Salvation Army Thrift Store. She said the effort was an opportunity to learn about helping the community.

    She required her students to write essays about community service. “They were all super-excited to come,” she said. “They put a lot of thought into the essays,” she said. I could see their hearts.”

    Students read to children at East Ward and West Ward elementary schools and helped out at Headstart locations, an animal shelter, Habitat for Humanity, the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery and the Harker Heights public library.

    A group also folded and organized clothes at the KISD Community Clothes Closet. They also delivered donated stuffed animals and clothes. The school district’s Homeless Awareness Response Program runs the closet and always needs children’s clothing.

    “This is about giving back this Christmas,” said eighth-grader Aimee Folger, who helped package socks for clothes closet clients.

    “Not everyone has what I have and are cared for like I am,” she said. “I think it’s cool we got to do this. It’s a good experience. The people are nice and it was fun.”

    December 15, 2016

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