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Making mealsKids these days.

Close to 1,000 Fluvanna County High School (FCHS) students spent Friday (March 31) spreading mulch, packaging meals, cutting up plastic bags for mats for the homeless, helping residents with building projects, and more.

It was the second year for Hands On Fluvanna – a day of giving planned by the Student Government Association (SGA) and Interact Club.

In one day, students donated 4,800 hours of service to their community.

Early Friday morning, SGA Vice President Maddie Garrett put the finishing touches on the plan that started at the beginning of the school year.

She eyed the dark skies outside the cafeteria window. Rain poured down and lightning flashed.

Everyone knew the projects would happen rain or shine.

“We’re still going along with the plan, though we have cancelled a couple of the outside projects,” Maddie said. “I’m scared it will be lightning and no one will want to go.”

She didn’t need to worry. Only four of the 34 planned jobs were cancelled.

Those four will be completed later in the year when SGA members fulfill the commitment during a field trip, Maddie said.

SGA President Sophie Kershner, Garrett, Secretary Megan Ludwig, Treasurer Marley McGrath and council ambassadors Nicole Kent and Bella O’Brien started in August by reviewing last year’s event.

They decided to create a website so those who want students to work on a project could sign up online. Sophie created the website.
“Last year everything was done on paper,” Maddie said. “This is better for the environment.”

Another big change was opening up projects to residents. Last year only businesses could sign up.

One project sent students to demolish a porch.

The football team spread mulch at several sites.

Maddie said at one point during their time outside, the rain picked up and the team became discouraged.

“SGA member Braden Turley used his position as student rep to encourage his 40 teammates to get the job done quickly, then had them picked up early and taken back to the school where they were given gym uniforms while waiting for their clothes to dry,” Maddie said. “This made me really proud because he didn’t wait to be told what to do, but used his best judgment – something the officers have been encouraging all year.”

Not all activities were outside. Several stations were set up in the school. Some made crepe-paper flowers to put on graves at Arlington Cemetery next month.
Interact Club adviser James Koczan led four shifts of students in packaging meals as a part of Rise Against Hunger. The meals will be sent to Haiti.

“We packaged a little over 15,000 meals,” Koczan said. “The meals consist of rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables, and a vitamin pack specifically crafted for individuals suffering from malnutrition.”

The Fluvanna and Fork Union Military Academy (FUMA) Interact Clubs, along with Fluvanna SGA, raised the almost $4,500 it cost to pay for the meal ingredients.
“Approximately 30 FUMA cadets, 100 FCHS students, and several Fluvanna County Rotary members teamed to package the meals on Friday,” Koczan said.

Students also brought in the plastic bags needed for the mats for the homeless, Maddie said.

“We counted how many bags students from each grade brought in. The class with the most bags each day got the spirit stick,” Maddie said. “We’re big on spirit around here.”
Nicole got the idea for making the mats from someone in her church youth council.

“We hand counted 2,730 bags and we had 1,500 left from last year,” Nicole said. “We’ll be cutting them up so they can be turned into yarn and woven into mats.”

Teacher David Small advises SGA and gets high praise from students. After spending so many hours guiding students in their endeavors throughout the day Friday, he helped document the activities using video and still cameras.

At the end of the day, Maddie said she was pleased at the success and the hard work put in by the students.

“Other than teaching the importance of service above self, I think that this event is important because it proves to students…that no matter how young we are or little we feel, if we have ideas we can make them happen,” Maddie said. ”This is my first time being a point person for such a large affair. It has given me a new sense of professionalism and confidence to communicate and work with local business leaders. I can’t wait to see what the stepping stones we’ve laid lead to in the years to come.”