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Cuddly kindness

The smallest helping hand gives hope when floods or fires strike local residents. It's a lesson not lost on the 10- and 11-year-olds in Carla Milliard's fourth-grade class at Washington Elementary in Fargo as they helped make fleece blankets Frid...

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The smallest helping hand gives hope when floods or fires strike local residents.

It's a lesson not lost on the 10- and 11-year-olds in Carla Milliard's fourth-grade class at Washington Elementary in Fargo as they helped make fleece blankets Friday afternoon.

"I feel bad for people in fires and tornadoes," 10-year-old Sophia Sondreal said as she cut fringes on a Mona Lisa-patterned blanket. "I have some blankets and my own covers, but they don't have anything."

The F-M area gives out about 50 blankets a year to victims of disasters such as fires or floods; Milliard's 22 fourth-graders had the ambitious goal of crafting 75 blankets.

"If we don't make them, no one will make them," said 22-year-old Allison Larsen, a Concordia College senior.

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Rarely does community service involve paying it forward - times two.

But Larsen is one of 16 Concordia elementary education students doing just that - volunteering their time to work with Washington Elementary students so the students, in turn, can volunteer in the community.

The aspiring Concordia elementary teachers create their own lessons that incorporate the basics - math, English, social studies and art - with a greater lesson of giving back.

"It's good they can see they can help out, too," Milliard said.

From helping fill the Great Plains Food Bank to hosting a clothing drive for the Dakota Boy's Ranch, the five Washington Elemementary classes are learning the good feeling of community service at an early age.

For the first year, one of those five classes is a special education class. It lets students with special needs also give back to the community.

"They're often disconnected from their communities," special education teacher Sheri Wanzek said. "It gives kids a better understanding of the connection with our community."

That connection of caring community is exactly what Milliard's fourth-graders are learning.

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"I think it's nice to give (blankets) to (disaster victims) because they're sad and don't have anything," Sondreal said. "You give them their blanket and they start to smile."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515

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