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Giving to the homeless

Robert Kringler is a big elf with a big heart. And the 15-year-old isn't alone. As 60 of his music classmates at Fargo's South Campus II stuffed and wrapped shoe boxes with gifts for area homeless men, women and children, Kringler was looking aro...

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Robert Kringler is a big elf with a big heart. And the 15-year-old isn't alone.

As 60 of his music classmates at Fargo's South Campus II stuffed and wrapped shoe boxes with gifts for area homeless men, women and children, Kringler was looking around for the gifts he'd need to fill his box for a girl.

"I couldn't imagine growing up and not getting a Christmas present," Kringler said.

"You just want to do all you can to help out. You can give all the money you want, but this is what it's all about," he said.

A half-hour into their Saturday event, the students had turned the school's cafeteria into a hive of

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for their Music Department Extravaganza.

The big production number had little to do with music, unless you count the Christmas carols playing in the background. But their instructors said the students were hitting all the right notes as they filled 215 shoe boxes with toys, games, clothing, food and toiletry items to make the holidays brighter for those less fortunate.

Choir Director Deb Wald said the students raised about $1,400 to buy the gifts.

Community service "comes quite naturally to them. It's just evident through their generosity," Wald said. "These are going to be our future leaders. What a great thing."

The shoeboxes will be distributed next week to the YWCA Cass Clay women's shelter and the New Life Center men's shelter in Fargo, and Churches United for the Homeless in Moorhead, Wald said.

"It's fun giving," said 14-year-old Aline Bisimwa." Just the spirit of giving makes me feel good on the inside."

"I kind of feel sorry for kids that don't have anything. I want to give them something to be happy about," said Nicole Spanier, 14.

"It's a great crew. They're volunteering their time ... to come into the school and help the homeless," said band teacher Keith Eider. "They're giving all they can."

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Orchestra teacher Denese Odegaard said one student's family gives her a dollar a week to donate to charity.

"She brought the whole bunch in," Odegaard said. "Giving is the reward."

Cydney Berlinger, 14, said it was a fun activity to do with friends.

"And it's for a good cause," Berlinger said. "So they (area homeless) can have a happy Christmas."

However, Berlinger admitted to being gift-wrap challenged, at least with flexible-lidded shoeboxes.

"I usually do bags. Wrapping isn't my thing," she said, as she turned to tape to try and clear up wrapping bulges.

Like Berlinger, what Kringler lacked in gift-wrapping savvy, he made up for in sincerity. At last glance, he was trying to get a teddy bear to fit into his shoebox.

"We'll push him in there," Kringler said, gently prodding his furry friend. "He'll make it."

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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