Paynter Elementary students skip gift exchange to help cancer patients at holidays
Nearly 300 first- and third-grade students at Paynter Elementary School in Baldwin Borough decided they didn't want to exchange presents with their classmates this holiday season.
Instead, the kids used the $5 they would have spent on a present to buy supplies to make blankets for local cancer patients on behalf of Wrapped in Love, a South Hills nonprofit whose mission is to ease their suffering.
And judging from the happy chatter and smiles Dec. 12 in the school auditorium, not one student appeared to regret his or her decision.
"This makes me feel good," said Ansley Becket, a third-grader at the school.
This is the second year the school's first- and third-graders have opted to do a community service project at the holidays rather than exchange presents. Last year, students at the school made blankets for Project Linus, which provides blankets to ill children. A Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts store provided the blanket-making materials.
The blankets made by the students are two large pieces of felt.
Jennifer Fink, a first-grade teacher at Paynter who is spearhearing the project, said parent volunteers came earlier this month and cut the blankets so each piece of felt has about one inch of fringe all around it.
The two sides of the blanket are then knotted together by two first-graders and two third-graders who are deliberately paired together so the older students can mentor the younger ones.
"You tie it once, then tie it again," said Fink, explaining the process.
"We told them they were making blankets for people who are not feeling well," she added. Fink said each of the participating 12 classrooms in the school had a practice blanket to make before they made the real ones.
"I am glad we did," she said.
During the massive blanket-making party, teachers walked back and forth between the aisles of tables, while Christmas music played and the kids talked among themselves. Some of the students ended up sitting on the floor so they could make better knots.
"I am excited," said Garang Garang, a third-grader, who was working in tandem with his sister, Yar, who is a first-grader.
"This is for cancer patients."
About 90 blankets will be donated to Wrapped in Love a few days before Christmas, said Rebcca Wolf, a Paynter third-grade teacher.
When a group of four students finished the blanket they were working on, they went to the front of the auditorium to have their pictures taken with the finished product. They then returned to their seats to make an ornament and write a letter to a patient. And when they completed that task, they were given pages to color with crayons donated by third-grade students.
"These blankets are definitely wrapped in love," Wolf said.
Suzanne Elliott is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at email@example.com or 412-871-2346.