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Young hands give hope


Students gather supplies for Grace House


December 28, 2010
CHARLTON — For around 10,000 young people in Bay State schools, where they'll end up doing homework is always a question floating in their minds. Although they tend not to look any different from their peers, they are — when school's out, they don't go home because they have no home.

Last week, Charlton's Heritage School did something to help them, assembling gift boxes, comprised mostly of toiletries, for Southbridge's Grace House family shelter.

When she came to receive them last Wednesday, shelter director Laura Kaplan asked the assembled students how many had experience of staying overnight with friends or relatives, sleeping on the couch, getting sick of the crowding after a while and being glad to go home. Most of the room raised hands.

"Where I work, we have a whole bunch of families staying together because they don't have a home of their own," she said. "… I want you to enjoy your own bed and your own toys and think about those who don't have them."

Dubbed "Hands of Hope," the program was born five years ago, when Pam Walsh, then a third-grade teacher but now the district's math coordinator, wrote a book of the same name, which her students illustrated. She said she did it, essentially, to show young people that smiles, compliments and small acts of kindness matter.

Many children, Walsh said, "don't feel they have the power to make a difference when they have so much ability to motivate each other. … It's not the bright, shiny thing that matters most."

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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