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St. Helens students chip in for day of service

Middle school students serve the community on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - Shelly Sanford, St. Helens Middle School media assistant, and Sarah Bartocci, an eighth-grader, decorate chocolate cookies for Community Meals on Monday, Jan. 18. Volunteers from the middle school made 100 cookie packages for Community Meals, a free meal program on Tuesday and Thursday nights hosted by the First Lutheran Church. On Monday, Jan. 18, nearly 50 students, parents, and staff from the St. Helens School Middle School volunteered around town during the school’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

At 9 a.m., students and staff gathered at the school before splitting into groups of four that volunteered at various locations. Projects included sorting donations and laundry for the Columbia County Warming Center at the Community Action Team building, sweeping and vacuuming at the St. Helens Senior Center, making cookies for Community Meals hosted by the First Lutheran Church, and picking up litter around the school grounds.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - Carol Dowsett, the St. Helens Middle School Principal, carries bags of trash collected from the school grounds on Monday. Students found everything from scooters to tires to garden shears while cleaning up the area around the school on N 16th Street and West Street.The National Junior Honor Society at the middle school began organizing volunteer days like this several years ago to help students give back to the community. While many students who volunteered Monday are society members, others simply wanted to help out.

Several students brought their parents and younger siblings to volunteer as well.

Jan Stites, the Warming Center’s coordinator, said the help from students and parents was much appreciated. The center is a volunteer-run operation, Stites said, explaining that tasks such as taking inventory and organizing supplies don’t always happen with limited volunteers.

“We’re really pleased to take some inventory ... so we know where we are,” Stites said. “We can see what we need. That’s a really important things for us to keep track of.”

Maddie Holm, an eighth-grader and the middle school’s president of the National Junior Honor Society, said she enjoys getting to meet people when she volunteers. Holm spent the morning cleaning at the senior center with her classmates.

Sarah Bartocci, an eighth-grader and co-president of the Builder’s Club, a club focused on volunteering and community service projects at the middle school, spent her time decorating cookies that will be donated to Community Meals. Bartocci said it’s a nice feeling to give back.

“A lot of people here don’t have much, so the little bit that we can do means the world to them,” Bartocci said.

After hours of work, student and adult volunteers wrapped up the day by enjoying pizza together back at St. Helens Middle School.

See more photos from the event below:

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - A group of eighth-grade students, Alana Saul, Maggie Wheeldon, Corbin Edson and Alex Bilton, pick up trash in the parking lot of the middle school. A group of students, parents, and staff, including school Principal Carol Dowsett, picked up litter around the school grounds and wetland areas.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - Lillian Janke, a fifth-grader, helps sweep the dance floor in the St. Helens Senior Center. Lillian Janke volunteered to help her father, Mark Janke, St. Helens Middle School dean of students, on Monday, Jan. 18.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - Danielle Nelson and her daughter, Kathryn Nelson, a fifth-grader, help wash a load of laundry at the Community Action Team building on Monday. Danielle's son, Jakob Nelson, an eighth-grader, also helped with various tasks at the Warming Center on Monday, including counting donations and organizing supplies.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - Mark Simpson, a seventh-grader, squeezes melted chocolate onto a cookie to decorate it on Monday. Simpson helped a group of students, staff and parents decorate 100 cookies during the Martin Luther King Jr. day of service.