- Associated Press - Monday, June 5, 2017

RACINE, Wis. (AP) - When people donate clothes, the usual suspects normally get thrown in the box, such as old T-shirts and dresses, pants that don’t fit and excess winter jackets.

But many people often don’t think to donate socks or underwear, which are among the most needed, The Journal Times (https://bit.ly/2rcBPDp ) reported. Three fifth-grade students - Ava Druhtenis, Madeline Vaile and Kadyn Barsch - from Jefferson Lighthouse Elementary School took that knowledge and turned a project into a passion.

Colleen Strain, international baccalaureate coordinator, said the students had to choose a project based on the theme “who we are.”

“(The students) had to think about who they are as a person and think of an issue . an issue that bothers or matters to them,” Strain said, adding that the students chose homelessness.

Druhtenis thought about how she would feel without having a lot of clothes and it touched her emotionally.

“I have all the things I need and (the homeless) don’t really have the stuff I have,” Druhtenis said. “Homeless people don’t really have socks and underwear like we do.”

To help the students along the way, first-grade teacher Kelly Pourell became their mentor for the project.

“When they interviewed people from Racine Unified’s Families In Transition (FIT) program, as well as HALO (Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization) they discovered clean underwear and socks were the least donated and most needed,” Pourell said.

But to gather the items, the students counted on their classmates.

“We set up some bins around school (in which students could place donated items) and made some announcements and put up flyers,” Vaile said. “My mom is a teacher (in Kenosha) and I asked her she could set up a bin at her school.”

The students even gave up some recesses to organize their donations.

The students interviewed Kaylee Cutler, coordinator of FIT, to learn about what she needed.

“They were very well prepared,” Cutler said. “They really did want to do something to help and I think this is a great way to do it.”

When the word got out that FIT was going to have additional socks and underwear, people and schools in need started calling Cutler.

“I already have schools asking me if I have underwear,” Cutler said. “This is going to get used up really quick.”

On Thursday, the students had two plastic bins filled with new socks and underwear and presented one of them to Cutler.

“I think it’s amazing they took their project from something they have to do, to something they want to do,” Cutler said of the students.

The other bin was taken to HALO later that day.

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Information from: The Journal Times, https://www.journaltimes.com

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