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Students send out some bear hugs

Fifty teddy bears are expected to be hand-delivered to children in Moss Point, Miss., this month
by: Jennifer Clampet, SHARING THE LOVE — Joosvel Villegas, a student in Erin Russell’s second-grade class at Bridgeport Elementary, keeps his class project teddy bears close as he works to complete his math assignment.

TUALATIN - Students in Erin Russell's second-grade class at Bridgeport Elementary plan to send a big package to a group of children in Moss Point, Miss.

The package will include more than just basic items needed by the children whose families are still rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. The package will have warm notes of compassion, signs of kindness and, oh yes, 'bear hugs.'

Fifty teddy bears will be hand-delivered this month to children in Moss Point.

'The bears are guaranteed to go to kids who live in the projects and who lost almost everything (during Hurricane Katrina),' Russell noted.

Russell was first stirred to action after a pastor from a church in Moss Point visited Rolling Hills Church. The stories of the devastation caused by the monstrous storm left Russell asking what she could do.

'It kind of got to me,' she admitted.

The bears were donated to Russell's class project by her aunt who gave the first 30 bears. Last week a woman at Rolling Hills Church asked to supply another 20 teddy bears for the cause.

Each child was assigned two bears to care for during class. Each child filled out nametags for the bears.

But along with the lesson of giving, Russell's class also spent last week learning about hurricanes and their lasting effect on areas like Moss Point.

Moss Point continues to receive help and support from other members of Rolling Hills Church.

The church has continued to send teams down to the Mississippi town to help in rebuilding efforts. The church responded to requests in the days after the hurricane with Bibles. Since then, the church has also sent teams of craftsman to provide help in rebuilding efforts.

Faith Carter, service facilitator for in-house ministries at the church, noted that a team from Rolling Hills will be responsible for hand-delivering the teddy bears this month.

Carter said that generosity continues to pour out for those devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

'Whether it's a second-grader or an 82-year-old, people want to be involved,' Carter said.

Russell says the bear project and her students' reactions have far exceeded what she ever imagined.

'They're really finding ownership in the project,' Russell said. 'I hope on the other end the children enjoy the bears as much as these kids have.'

Quietly sitting at their desks with their bears sitting up right on the table tops, Russell's students shot their hands into the air eager to acknowledge who they were sending their bears to.

Moises Villanueva didn't hesitate when called on. 'To the kids that don't have a buddy.'