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Sixth-graders (from left) Sereta Burrows, Taylor Farley, Chrissy Campbell and Doria Phelps pet Gracie, from the Animal Protection League, at Highland Middle School on Tuesday.

Highland Middle School sixth-grader Sharon Kulali encourages any who can give to a cause to do so.

Kulali was one of about 110 sixth-graders who helped raise nearly $3,000 for the Animal Protection League and Chesterfield Food Pantry as a community service project.

“Not everybody has something, is as fortunate as we are, so I wanted to help out,” Kulali said, adding it was a learning experience.

Sixth-grade teacher Kelly Hodson headed up a fundraiser for the group and said she’s very proud of the students who volunteered their time to raise money.

She said the teachers enjoyed doing community service projects while at North Side and East Side intermediate schools and wanted to continue doing so at Highland.

The kids sold shirts and other items from Nature’s Vision, an environmentally friendly group, for just two weeks, Hodson said, and presented checks to the two groups Tuesday.

The top seller brought in $400 and others who couldn’t sell any items donated, she added.

She said the students surpassed expectations and that she hopes they’ll set an example for others who opted out of the project by showing how to make a difference.

“We just really want to build a sense of community,” she said. “In recent years, the sense of community has deteriorated around here. We want the kids to feel for their neighbors.”

And the younger they start, the more likely they are to make an impact, she said.

Sixth-graders like Madison Downham said they were working for a good cause. She said there are families who are “not as lucky, they’re not as fortunate” as others and need the assistance.

Sixth-grader Preston Davis said it’s important to help people who need help, and that if he or any other student were in the same situation, they’d want help.

Deborah Dunham, treasurer at the Chesterfield Food Pantry, told the students they are truly helping others, especially at an important time like the holidays, and setting a good example.

“So many talk about the bad kids,” she said. “Here we have kids raising money for a common cause.”

Even though the kids weren’t expecting anything in return, she and Maleah Stringer, executive director of the Animal Protection League, presented coupons for a free Wendy’s Frosty.

Stringer told the students that because someone like them donated, the league would have more money to help the homeless animals who need care.

Hodson said they’d like to expand the community projects and find ways to actually go out and volunteer.

“We have no intention of being a one-shot deal,” she said. “We want to get the kids involved in community.”

Find Dani Palmer on Facebook and @DaniPalmer_THB on Twitter, or call 640-4847.

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