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Belhaven students make winter warm and fuzzy for others

LINWOOD — Soft and fleecy blankets will warm bodies and hearts this winter thanks to a community service project at Belhaven Middle School.

Starting in early October, more than 30 students opted to skip recess and instead got involved making blankets for veterans, foster children and Noogieland at Gilda’s Club.

Jennifer Parmelee teaches sixth- and seventh-grade math at Belhaven. For years she wanted to muster the collective efforts of her students to complete some kind of community service project but lack of funds to get it rolling stymied the effort. But thanks to the Linwood Education Foundation annual teacher grants, Parmelee was able to see an idea turn into action.

Each year teachers are given an opportunity to apply to LEF for grants that, if approved, will provide the funds to cover some or all of the cost incurred for things teachers would like to do in their classroom or with their students that are outside of the budget. Parmelee applied for a grant for the blanket project, called Cozy Up with Kindness. It was one of more than a dozen teacher grants approved for this school year.

Parmelee said the LEF grant funds were used to purchase the supplies and fabric to make no-sew fleece blankets. The blankets are hand-tied. The teacher said she is so proud of her students taking ownership of the project that will help provide warmth and security for kids and veterans.

Belhaven Principal Susan Speirs commended Parmelee for creating a unique opportunity for the seventh-grade students to take a leadership role in helping others.

“The blankets are beautifully crafted. We are very proud of our students' efforts to reach out with love and comfort towards children in need and our honored veterans,” Speirs said.

District Superintendent Brian Pruitt likewise was impressed with the thoughtful service project.

“The project is a true sign of the caring and kind student body that we have, to commit themselves on this positive social project. I thank Jen Parmelee for her work with the students and appreciate all of their efforts in supporting local community groups,” said Pruitt. “The LEF has generously offered grants to our schools that have supported a variety of projects, initiatives, and programs. Through LEF fundraising efforts and their commitment to both small and large grants, our staff can enhance and extend the learning experiences for our students.”

There were 73 blankets completed and being donated to foster children through Court Appointed Special Advocates, Noogieland at Gilda’s Club in Linwood for children who have been affected by cancer and veterans living at the Veterans Memorial Home in Vineland. The Seaview School conducted a schoolwide veteran’s collection drive and those items will be delivered along with the blankets.

Some of the students who volunteered to make the blankets spoke at the November Linwood Board of Education meeting about the experience and what it meant to get involved.

Volunteer Claire Wurzer said she was happy to make the blankets that would provide warmth for kids and as a way to say thank you to veterans who have served their country.

“I am overwhelmed by the selfless attitude of the students involved with this project,” said Parmelee. “Because of the LEF, my students and I have been allowed the opportunity to make a difference to those in need, one blanket at a time.”

Editorial Administrative Assistant

Started working with the Press in the Circulation Department in 2006 and moved to Editorial in 2008. Previously worked in Circulation and Advertising at the Asbury Park Press.

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