BROADALBIN - Whether the students are donating non-perishable food items to a local food pantry or sending happy messages to the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, the Community Service Club at Broadalbin-Perth Middle School is having fun helping others.
More than 20 middle school students have been taking part in the community service effort over the last two years.
"I just like helping others and making people feel good," said sixth-grader Miles Compani while he helped plant flowers recently. "It's just fun doing these kinds of things."
Broadalbin-Perth sixth-grader Sydney Rogers digs a hole to plant flowers near the flagpole at Broadalbin-Perth Middle School on May 27 as part of a Community Service Club project.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Broadalbin-Perth student Gianna DiNatale paints a “happy thoughts” jar for Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Broadalbin-Perth sixth- grader Miles Compani digs a hole to plant flowers outside his school last month.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Above are some of the messages the club sent to Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The club started two years ago after middle school science teacher Kelly DiNatale decided it would be good for the community for students to take the time to help those who need it most.
"I used to do it every year with church groups, and then whatever school I was at, I carried it with me," she said about the club's origin. "When I came to Broadalbin, it just really blossomed from there, and since it's student-driven and things they want to do, it really has grown. It has been getting bigger and better every year."
DiNatale said the club's goal is one project per month, but that often depends on the type of project.
Here are some of the Broadalbin-Perth Middle School Community Service Club's achievements from 2012 to 2014:
Donated 3,000 non-perishable food items to Broadalbin-Perth Ecumenical Food Pantry.
Donated more than $200 to No Child Hungry National Campaign.
Sent approximately 700 holiday cards to critically ill children and families at St. Jude Children's Hospital.
Donated 100 items to the Fulton County Animal Shelter.
Planted flowers in front of Broadalbin-Perth Middle and Intermediate schools.
Sent two dozen hand-painted jars with handwritten happy thoughts to Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Collected 40 pounds of pull tabs from cans to benefit the Ronald McDonald House at the Children's Hospital at Albany Medical Center.
"It's my heart's work," DiNatale said. "Teaching is my passion, but this is something we share by doing something good for someone else. [The students] really love that, and they really do have a genuine compassion to help others."
District Superintendent Stephen Tomlinson said DiNatale's passion to do these kinds of activities outside the classroom is a valuable asset to the district and students.
"The Community Service Club at the middle school is a prime example of teachers, students and staff going above and beyond the learning process," Tomlinson said. "It's important to teach students how to read, write and add numbers, but this teaches kids how to be good citizens. We know if they are good people and give back to their community, they are going to be successful in anything that they decide to do."
The club most recently raised $300 from raffle tickets for donated spring baskets to be used to buy and plant flowers in front of Broadalbin-Perth Middle and Intermediate schools.
Last month, dozens of students stayed after school to plant colorful flowers around the traffic loop and flagpole at Broadalbin-Perth Middle School.
"The stuff that our Community Service Club has done is unbelievable," said middle school Principal Wayne Bell.
The club also has made an effort to help communities in other states. For example, the club sent two dozen hand-painted jars to Sandy Hook Elementary School in February last year.
A jar was sent to each teacher's classroom and contained handwritten happy thoughts on rainbow-colored paper - one happy thought for each remaining day of the school year.
Sandy Hook in Newtown, Conn., was the scene of a shooting on Dec. 14, 2012, in which 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six adult staff members.
"A student came to me last year asking what we could do for [Sandy Hook], and they really wanted it to be something bigger than a letter, so from there, we decided to send them reminders of the things that make everyone smile," DiNatale said.
Some of those happy thoughts included "dance in the rain," "go out and play" and "sitting in the sunshine."
In March, the students helped with the Broadalbin-Perth school's Senior Citizens Prom, where they danced with, seated and helped elderly people.
Seventh-graders Kiran Singh and Ava Naple said they joined the club this year and enjoyed giving the seniors an opportunity to experience the prom once again.
"All of them were showing how much joy it was bringing them with their faces, and they were all like, 'awe, you're so sweet, thank you for such a wonderful night,'" Naple said. "It was just great seeing them get so excited."
"I like that we got to use our own ideas and not just do what they told us we are doing," Singh said. "It's fun trying to think of new things."
Many of the students said their favorite community service work was in November when they donated nearly 3,000 non-perishable food items to the Broadalbin-Perth Ecumenical Food Pantry.
"I love helping others, and it also keeps me out of trouble," said eighth-grader Kyle Ropeter.