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Third Graders Generously Give Back to Welcome House

Mallory Lee, a student teacher in Mrs. Hassell and Mrs. Festa's third grade class at Narragansett Elementary School, guided her students in a successful community project to benefit the Welcome House of South County.

This Week’s Whiz Kids: 

Name:  Mrs. Hassell, Mrs. Festa and Miss Lee’s Third Grade Classes

School:  Narragansett Elementary School

Accomplishment: Mrs. Hassell and Mrs. Festa’s classes spearheaded a project among the entire third grade to collect paper goods and other needed items for Welcome House under the guidance of student teacher Mallory Lee.

Whiz Kid’s Key to Awesomeness: Third graders are many things — curious, busy, funny, restless, interesting, smart and caring. When given an important job, however, there is another word to describe them — determined. The classroom of Mrs. Tonia Hassell and Mrs. Karen Festa recently proved that.

Mallory Lee, a student teacher from Salve Regina University, created a service learning project that would address a need in the community and get students involved. Lee brainstormed the project with Festa and in thinking of their social studies curriculum, which focused on “community,” they decided to pick the Welcome House of South County because of the important role it plays locally.  The two researched the Welcome House’s website and found they were in need of specific items. 

“We thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to give back to those in need,” Festa said.

All five third grade classrooms at NES joined forces to help Lee in her project, which culminated on April 5, when they all gathered to present Welcome House Executive Director Linda Barden with the items they had collected.

The third graders gave her the collection of items, which included paper towels, napkins, paper plates, dish soap, pens/sharpies, post-it notes and more. 

Barden spent time with the students explaining and answering their questions about why we have a place like Welcome House right here in our own community.

The house was formerly South County Emergency Shelter and served as a night to night shelter in church basements throughout Washington County. In 1987, it was incorporated and a 501-C3 was granted. In 1989, the current building was purchased and rehabbed, and Welcome House started taking its first overnight guests at the present address, 8 North Road in Peace Dale.

Shelter is provided to as many as 275 individuals and 18 families a year at Welcome House. Food, clothing and some social services are also provided. 

Barden said guests typically stay for about 90 days or until they can secure sufficient funds to find their own housing. All of the individuals and families that stay at Welcome House do not need to worry about privacy, as this information remains confidential. 

Student Jah'Qwin Sekator said it felt really good to help the families at Welcome House. “It was fun to work together as a class to help people who don’t have as much as we do,” he said.

Caroline O’Neil wrote a special essay about the project, which she read aloud to Barden and the other third graders. 

“I feel like we made a change in the world when we got all these items together for the people who have no homes,” O'Neil said. “The kids who stay there must be scared.”

The students collected more than 109 items, totaling avout $500 in value. Barden smiled and told the kids what a great job they did. 

“We have a soup kitchen at Welcome House every day from noon to 1 p.m. The value of this donation of paper good products will allow us to stock healthy food in the soup kitchen for nearly two months,” Barden said.

As part of the project, Lee created an interactive bulletin board on which the students tallied the items. The class also read a story about good deeds and then participated in crafting an argument: “Is it a good idea to give to people in need" for which they had to support their response with details.

In addition to the donations, Lee said she was excited to announce that these donations also counted as a Feinstein Good Deed, and local philanthropis Alan Shawn Feinstein will donate $1 for each item to the Welcome House.

At the end of her visit with the third grade, Barden made a special request of them. 

“The next time you participate in a wonderful project like this, ask your parents what extra job you can do around the house in order to earn the money to pay for the items you donated," she said. "Things are very expensive in the grocery store. When you pay for something with your own, hard-earned money, it can help you to appreciate what your parents have to do to put food on your own tables.”

Brady Iannelli, another of the students in Mrs. Hassell and Mrs. Festa’s class, watched as Barden took the overflowing boxes of goods out to her car. 

“Wow, it sure does feel great to see all that stuff going out to help people we don’t even know, but who really need it,” she said.

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