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Bears on a Mission
Paducah Sun 

A group of local students are learning to do more than just sew and knit in their Family Consumer Science classes; they are learning what it means to be constructive and considerate members of not only their community, but the world around them.

Gearing up to send 50 McCracken seniors on a mission trip to El Salvador in collaboration with Starfish Orphan Ministries next week, students in the school’s FCS classes, sewing club and FCCLA have been working for nearly two weeks to sew together stuffed bears that their classmates will hand-deliver to children in need.

Samantha Heath, Family and Consumer Sciences teacher and FCCLA advisor at McCracken County High School, said one of her main goals as an educator is to promote character building.

“One of the best ways to do that is to give kids opportunities to give back to the community, whether it’s the community in Paducah or the global community,” Heath said. “Just any way kids can give back is really going to help build their character.”

Heath said students in FCS classes usually have more than one community project going on at once. “We knit and sew,” Heath said. “The hats that we knit, we send to the Community Kitchen (in Paducah) to give out to people who come in there for free meals or looking for shelter.”
Heath said this will be their third year crafting gifts for children abroad.
“Last year we did capes for dramatic play for the kids, to send the message that you can be a superhero no matter what your circumstances are,” Heath said. “The year before, we made dresses and shorts and sent them over for the kids to give out.”

“So this year we thought we could do some bears, because they’re small enough to be packed and go on the trip, but they’re also a good comfort item for children in need,” Heath added.

Abby Hefner and Abigail Birman, McCracken County freshmen, are members of FCCLA and brainstormed the idea for this year’s gift with their FCCLA administrators.
“Our hope is that they act as a comfort item for kids going through hard transitions,” Birman said. “In El Salvador, they don’t have a lot at all, so even though it seems small to us, just having a bear would be special to them.”

Hefner said it feels good to be making a tangible difference for these kids. Although the girls are too young to go on the mission trip themselves, they said it’s nice to be able to lend a hand somehow and be involved even here at home.

“We’re just two kids out of a really big high school so to think that we could have a part in changing someone’s life from another country is really cool,” Birman said. “I think by doing this, we might be showing other people in the community that they can do something to help other people, too. You don’t have to make bears for kids in another country, you can help in your own way.”
A lot of McCracken’s FCCLA members, Heath said, are going to El Salvador.

“They’ll actually get to take the bears and see the impact they made,” Heath said. “Then they’ll take photos and we can show them to our students in class, and they’ll get to see the smile on that kid’s face.”
Although their goal was 100 bears, Heath said they have already surpassed that. Students will be leaving for El Salvador to deliver the bears on Wednesday.