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While Valentine’s Day is a chance for kids to show their love for family and friends, at some schools, it’s a chance for them to pay it forward.

This past Valentine’s Day, the Wilmot Community Action Team began a food drive to help Mountain Backpacks and the Evergreen Christian Outreach food bank; a fifth grade class at Parmalee donated goods to Marshall Fire victims; and the student leadership team at Bergen Valley sold lollipops to raise money for the Make-a-Wish Colorado.

For the students involved, it’s all about giving back and spreading the love in the community.

Parmalee fifth grader Sabine Coker said helping others was akin to a quote by José Andrés: “If you have more than you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence.”

It’s good to help people who need it, Wilmot fifth grader River Fink explained.


Wilmot food drive

Members of the Wilmot Community Action Team — known as the Wilmot CATs — have been speaking in classrooms about the families in the area who can’t afford to put food on their tables. Students understand that some families decide to pay for housing, health care and clothing over paying for food, and they wanted to help.

The cans and boxes line the halls to help remind the school community to bring donations, and on Valentine’s Day, the line of food got longer.

Mountain Backpacks provides backpacks filled with food on Fridays for students who need help getting food over the weekend, while Evergreen Christian Outreach has a food bank for all ages.

“We need to donate so they can have a better life,” fifth grader Lucia Templeton explained. “We want them to be happy.”

The team is new this year at the school, and each month, students take on a different community service project.


Helping Marshall Fire victims

The students in Caron Matteucci’s fifth grade class at Parmalee Elementary have been taking part in a service project for Valentine’s Day since third grade with the help of now room parent Jen Van Praag.

“I thought it was neat to start paying the love forward,” Van Praag explained, noting that part of the Valentine’s Day party was spent sorting the donations into bins, so they could be transported to a distribution center in Boulder County. By the time the sorting was done, the bins were overflowing, and it took many trips to get the donations into Van Praag’s car.

“When we all bring a little, we can make a huge difference,” she told students as they prepared to sort donations. “Remember you may be one person, but when you combine your love, talent and what makes you you, you can make a huge difference.”

Students donated cleaning supplies, food, personal care items, kitchen supplies, paper products and linens.

Fifth grader Sigsten Bergstrand said he hoped the fire victims know they have neighbors like the Parmalee students who will help them, and he understands that generosity is an important quality.

“It’s a life skill that needs to be practiced early on,” fifth grader Joey Fager added.

Matteucci noted that love comes in different forms, and she was impressed with the group’s Valentine’s Day service routine. In fact, she plans to continue with service projects for the holiday with future classes.


Make-a-Wish lollipops

Meanwhile, the student leadership team at Bergen Valley spread the love on Valentine’s Day by selling lollipops with the money going to Make-a-Wish Colorado.

Last week was Wish Week at Evergreen High School, during which the school raises money for the nonprofit that grants wishes to ill children. This year, EHS students are raising money to help children like Sloan, a Bergen Valley fourth grader who has cystic fibrosis, get their wish trips.

The Bergen Valley student leadership team sold lollipops to students, who could write messages to friends and staff. On Valentine’s Day morning, they arrived at school early to organize the lollipop Valentines and deliver them to classes.

“We are helping kids who are sick or having trouble, so they can make a wish and it can come true,” fifth grader Sloane Benson explained.

“We wanted to help our school and community,” fifth grader Sidney Hazeltine added.

“It makes us feel good to know we are helping others,” fifth grader Ali McMillan said.