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Backpack Heroes

Students prepare code blue bags for displaced, homeless residents

Students in the Kindness Club at Boulevard Elementary School joined by advisers Kaylyn Akey and Stephanie Lott this month filled 10 code blue backpacks with cold weather essentials to be handed out to displaced community members this winter by the Gloversville Police Department. The Kindness Club handed off the bags to Lt. Brad Schaffer at the school on Nov. 18. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

GLOVERSVILLE — Displaced locals without the necessities to face the winter months will receive support from the Boulevard Elementary School Kindness Club whose members stuffed code blue backpacks with cold weather essentials this month to be handed out to those in need.

The Kindness Club at Boulevard was started by third grade teacher Kaylyn Akey last school year to involve students in projects aimed at spreading kindness throughout the city and the surrounding community.

“That’s something that we’re really, really big on here at Boulevard, teaching kids how to interact with each other and show kindness and show empathy,” Akey said. “I thought this was a great way to kind of tie that into what we’re all doing in the classroom and hold kids accountable for the way they make other people feel and to feel good about helping others.”

During bimonthly meetings club co-advisors Akey and physical education teacher Stephanie Lott brainstorm with the more than 60 students participating in the club to come up with one large activity to undertake each month to help people in their community.

Past activities have included sending Stewart’s Shops gift cards and a few kind words to first responders called to the scene of the 2018 Schoharie limousine accident, providing Thanksgiving dinners to families at Boulevard, purchasing holiday gifts for Boulevard students and clearing litter from the Rail Trail in October while participating in the city’s Project Clean Streets initiative.

This month club members created code blue backpacks filled with essential items to be distributed to the city’s homeless population.

“A student had suggested helping people who don’t have homes, so we talked about a way in which we could do that and this seemed to be the best way,” Akey explained.

The students brainstormed ideas of what to include in the backpacks, selecting the items they felt were most important. Akey said the backpacks and goods were purchased in part through contributions from Boulevard staff members participating in dress down days.

“Our staff raised a ton of money for us which was really helpful,” Akey said.

A number of items were donated by local retailers including Target and organizations such as Nathan Littauer Hospital.

In total the Kindness Club was able to put together 10 code blue backpacks that each contain a first aid kit featuring cough drops, band aids, hand sanitizer and tissues, two blankets, a hat, a pair of gloves or mittens, at least five bottles of water, two boxes of protein bars, wool socks, ear plugs, a rain poncho, flushable wipes, a toothbrush and toothpaste.

Akey said students in the club packed the bags earlier this month working in small groups to ensure each bag received the same number of items. She estimated the value of each code blue bag at roughly $50.

“I think that our kids did a great job. I think that they got really into it. I think that they really do want to help others, sometimes it’s just hard to find a way to do that,” Akey said.

Fourth grade student Madison Beck said she has enjoyed helping others through Kindness Club since joining last year, even when the club’s task for the month is challenging.

“Last year we did a Thanksgiving dinner,” Beck said. “It was a little hard because there was a lot of stuff we had to do … we had to deliver them, we had to bring them downstairs, we had to put everything together in boxes.”

But Beck said she likes to do crafts, which a number of the club’s activities have incorporated, and more importantly she thinks being kind is cool and feels good putting in the hard work to help others.

“I feel happy and proud of myself for doing it, because some of it is hard work and I like doing kind things for other people and just for the world,” Beck said. “I do think it is inspiring other people to do kind things like we are doing in Kindness Club.”

On Monday students in the Kindness Club did some heavy lifting carrying the packed bags from Akey’s upstairs classroom down to the front lawn at Boulevard to be picked up by the Gloversville Police Department where officers will get the backpacks into the hands of those in need.

“That was the safest and the easiest way we could think of to pass them along,” Akey said thanking city police. “They were more than willing to come and help us out.”

“I hope that they get to the people who need them and help them this winter. I know that it’s not everything for winter, but I hope that a little bit goes a long way,” she added.

Lt. Brad Schaffer thanked the students and club advisers for putting the code blue backpacks together while collecting the bags from the Kindness Club at Boulevard to transport the resources back to the station to be handed out by officers as they meet individuals in need of the cold weather essentials this winter.

“They are resources that we don’t have easy access to independent of a donation like this and the fact that the kids did it during this holiday season I think means a lot. And we definitely appreciate Miss Akey’s effort here to make this happen,” Schaffer said.

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