TOWNSEND — There were no classes on Martin Luther King Day, but for a dedicated group it was an “on” day at school.
The NOLA Service Learning Club held a day of service during the Monday holiday. Projects benefiting groups near and far kept students along with their family and friends busy on a sunny January day.
The service learning club is named for the assistance it provides in New Orleans, La. North Middlesex Regional High School students began to spend one week a year helping folks in the southern city that was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
During the MLK day of service, the club set out to help others from their own community, the region and across the globe. Over 100 volunteers took part during the day.
Several groups made double thickness fleece blankets for a central Massachusetts shelter for homeless veterans and for a battered women’s shelter.
Coordinator Kaila Proulx, a senior from Pepperell, had hoped to get material donated, but was not able to do so.
Instead, with the help of Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store, she got as many coupons as possible, and purchased materials to make the blankets. At the end of the day, they made 50 blankets.
Tyler Libonate, a Pepperell junior, was tasked by faculty adviser Ray Kane with finding a new charity that needed help.
He found the idea of making “patient packs,” activity books for children in the hospital, on a website named “dosomething.org.”
The books are meant for younger children and the website had suggestions for what to include. The North Middlesex gang put their own mark on the 100 packs they made. “We kind of altered them a bit,” he said.
Other students were busy putting together 250 cold lunch bags for St. John’s Food for the Poor in Worcester. Volunteers made sandwiches and stuffed bags. Another volunteer checked each bag to make sure it had everything that it should.
NOLA recently began working with the Lowell Humane Society. The dogs at the shelter will be in for a treat when they get the homemade peanut butter or applesauce cookies that were baked at the school.
One group made feminine hygiene kits for young women in developing countries. The Days for Girls project was funded by a $1,000 grant from Youth Ventures, said Ally Waxman, a Townsend senior.
The reusable pads and shields are packed in colorful bags and should last for three years, with careful washing, she said. Her original goal was make 50 kits, but now she hopes the project will continue after she has left the school.
Other students worked in the school greenhouse, cleaning up potted plants and even gathering a few overlooked hot peppers. The community garden, staffed by service club members, donates thousands of pound of produce each year to local food pantries.
A group of students went to Clinton, cleaning the kitchen at the WHEAT Community Café from top to bottom. The café offers free meals six nights a week.
Another small group traveled to Fitchburg for the day to paint a lavatory at Our Father’s House, a shelter for homeless men and women.
North Middlesex students and volunteers have been a huge help for many years, said Kevin MacLean, director of homeless services. “They are always looking for ways to help those who need it the most.”
During April vacation, some of the club members will go to New Orleans. For some it will be their first trip, others have been before.
Another group will go to Philadelphia over Memorial Day weekend. Others have made trips to New York City with the service group.
“It’s so much fun,” said sophomore Jackie Plante who has been to Philadelphia and New York. “It gave me a new outlook on everything.”