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Students lend a helping hand with donated clothes

Samantha Krahling (left) and Hannah Meisner are surrounded by the donated clothing gathered at Hillside Elementary over the past week. The effort helped to re-stock the Five Loaves Food Shelf and Clothing Center, which had been running out of used clothing.

Hannah Meisner admits that she's always had a giving spirit.

When she was little, Meisner said she was always trying to give away her toys and clothes to others.

So it was only natural that, when Meisner noticed a story in the New Richmond News that the Five Loaves Food Shelf and Clothing Center was running out of donated clothes, she felt the need to help.

Meisner, the daughter of Candy and Shane Meisner, said she didn't even know the Clothing Center existed until seeing the plea in the recent newspaper.

After thinking it over, Meisner decided a clothing drive at her school, Hillside Elementary, might bring in some donations from students and staff. She mentioned her idea to her fourth grade teacher, Bryan Hop, and she got the OK.

"She kind of took the bull by the horns and made it happen," Hop said. "I love to encourage social awareness and action in our kids. Too often we underestimate the capabilities of children. They want to help out."

Meisner recruited her friend Samantha Krahling to begin the drive. The two met after school two weeks ago to begin creating posters to promote donations from students. The promotional pieces were taped to the walls at school.

The students also made several announcements to their classmates as the drive approached.

The clothing drive itself ran last week, ending on Friday. Huge piles of clothes gathered near the school entrance and were then taken to the Clothing Center on Monday. Hop estimates that 30 to 40 bags of donated clothes were collected for the Clothing Center.

"We were really surprised by how much people donated," Meisner said.

"I was worried that no one would really care," Krahling added.

"Everybody wanted to donate their clothes to people who need it," Meisner said.

"It just feels good to do something nice for someone else," Krahling finished.

Krahling said she feels sad when she thinks about families and classmates that have trouble making ends meet during these tough financial times.

"Some people don't have a lot," she said. "If I have clothes that don't fit me any more, why not give them to someone else?"

Hop said he was also pleased with how things turned out.

He's especially excited that the project helped students learn about volunteerism and the benefits of helping others who are less fortunate.

"We, as teachers, can try and teach kids as much academically as possible in the short time we have with them," he said. "But I do believe that sometimes those things that you can't learn in books can make lasting impressions too."

Hop said he continues to challenge his students by asking them "what can we do about it?" when they have an idea for a community project.

"Can one person make change in the world?" he said. "If one committed individual, no matter the age, takes on a problem and acts on it, change will occur."

Since the initial plea for help, the Clothing Center has experienced a rush of donations. Volunteers at the center say the response is an indication of how generous the community remains.