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Students Build Bridges to Community, with Capes


It’s not everyday you see middle schoolers sewing, but when it comes to helping children become caped crusaders, Kraft Meadows and Duncan Lake students eagerly grabbed fleece, scissors and patterns and got to work.

Students involved in the Kiwanis Builders Club, which meets once a month for a half hour before school, are making soft, comfy capes – perfect for superheroes and for wrapping blanket-like around sleepy children – to donate to children at YMCA West Central Michigan, inGrand Rapids, where women and children seek shelter from abusive situations. Club members recently raised $163 by holding a hat day at school to pay for the fleece.

Sam Norberg and Noah Graves line up their cape pattern
Sam Norberg and Noah Graves line up their cape pattern

The club, which started 10 years ago through a partnership with the Caledonia Kiwanis Club, involves sixth- through eighth-graders in projects that connect with the community and across the globe, said Elizabeth Alexander, middle school enrichment coordinator who advises the club with counselor Lori Burgess.

“Kiwanis is really focused on helping children,” Alexander said.

Builders Club is part of a large family of Kiwanis International service clubs and is the largest service organization for middle school and junior high students, with more than 45,000 members worldwide, according to the website.

Eighth-grader Ethan Hance, club president, said it teaches students to serve and develop leadership skills: “It’s really interesting to think kids are helping other kids. It helps bring communities together for a cause.”
The capes and some children’s books will be delivered to the shelter once completed.

Ainsley Ashton flattens her fleece
Ainsley Ashton flattens her fleece

The club has also made pillowcase dresses for children in Africa, collected items for Grand Rapids-based Kids’ Food Basket, raised money by holding bake sales for Mackenzie’s Animal Sanctuary, collected donations during trick-or-treat for UNICEF and other projects. They also volunteer at senior programs at the Caledonia Resource Center.

Kiwanis Club member Ryan Prichard, a branch manager for Lake Michigan Credit Union, in Caledonia, volunteers with the Builders Club. He provided instructions on making the capes.

“I think it’s really good for kids to be involved in the community,” he said.

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Morgan Yenna and Maya Carrow prepare their fleece for cutting

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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