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#UCPSGivesBack Caring through Crafting Club

Earlier this school year, Western Union Elementary (WUES) teacher assistant Shelly Bernabe wanted to start a crafting club at her school. 

But as a parent herself, she also faced the same dilemma that parents of young children know all too well: What in the world do you do with all of the arts and crafts projects your children bring home?

“I’ve always said, ‘They’re so cute but what am I supposed to do with it?” Shelly said, laughing.

Then, she had the perfect idea.

After sharing her proposal with WUES Principal Kristi Williford, Shelly started the Caring through Crafting club for third through fifth graders at her school. 

The students would spend their time working on arts and crafts projects after school every Thursday. However, instead of taking their crafts home, they would be donated to local nonprofit organizations as a way of teaching students how to give back in their community.

When the club officially launched in October, Shelly wasn’t entirely sure she’d have enough interest in to fill the 20 available spots.

By the first week of December, more than 30 students were sprawled out in a classroom after school, laughing with each other as they completed their crafts. In fact, the club had grown so quickly that Shelly enlisted the support of her colleagues at the school.

Weaving her way around students in the classroom and offering words of encouragement as they completed their projects, Shelly explained that each group is called a community.

“Children need to learn to work together as a community. When they come in each week, I say, ‘Pick a community to work in,’” she said. “I want them to know that we’re all one person and we all need to learn how to get along and work together.”

When the club started, the students made dog treats and toys, which has since been donated to the Humane Society of Union County.

Now, the students are tackling bigger projects.

Caring through Crafts Picture As holiday music played in the background, half of the students worked on making plarn, or plastic bags of yarn, which will be crocheted into waterproof mats for the homeless. The mats will be donated to a local homeless shelter.

Meanwhile, other students made blankets that will be donated to the police department. 

“The blankets are for officers to give to children who have been in house fires or car accidents. It’s something they can wrap the children in,” Shelly said. “We’re also putting our first names and sweet thoughts on little hearts that will go inside of the blankets.” 

Taking a break from crocheting plarn with her friends, third grader Mary Casas said she always looks forward to the Caring through Crafting club every Thursday afternoon.

“I joined this club because I love art and it’s helping the community. I love how things inspire me and this makes me want to do more,” she said. “I think other kids should do things like this because it helps the world become a better place.”

That mindset, wanting to make the world a better place, is what Shelly said she ultimately wants the children to take away from their time in the club.

“I just hope they leave here wanting to go out into the world and help others. At the end of the day, I want our students to go home talking about things they did for others in our community, she said. “I want them to know they’re helping somebody and making a positive impact.”