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Students provide supply line to fire victims

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TALENT — Backpacks filled with school supplies and other items collected by a Talent Middle School class are headed to students disrupted by the Camp fire in Paradise, California.

Teacher Jennifer Bakker’s advisory class put the effort together in three weeks after she proposed the project.

“I like that our class stepped up and wanted to help all the people from the Camp fire,” said sixth-grader Bentley Becker. “The people don’t have much left but the clothes on their backs.”

The kids heard about it and said. “Let’s do this,” Bakker said. All advisory classes at the school take on community service projects.

“I was a firefighter to pay for college,” said Bakker. “I know how fast wildfires move and how destructive it could be.”

Started Nov. 8, the Camp fire spread rapidly in and around Paradise, forcing nearly all residents to evacuate. As of Dec. 14, the fire was contained at 153,336 acres. It destroyed 13,972 residences, 5,285 commercial buildings and 4,293 other structures. An estimated 95 percent of buildings in Paradise were destroyed, and there were 86 fatalities.

Students on Thursday used an assembly line to fill 22 backpacks with supplies. Each pack will contain a notebook, folders, pencils, glue sticks and a pair of gloves. There’s also a deck of cards for entertainment, a friendship bracelet, a printed note from Talent Middle School and a personal note either written or typed by a student in the class.

Other items — including scarves, clothing, toys, canned food and fleece throws — will be in boxes for separate hand out.

Phoenix High School teacher Christie Sanders, who has connections to the area, will deliver the supplies Friday to a fire department that will handle distribution.

“It was such short notice because we wanted to get something done before the holidays,” said Bakker. Students were encouraged to raise money and goods in whatever way seemed best, such as talking to friends, going to neighbors or doing chores or other tasks to earn money to donate.

“The kids had some freedom on how they could help out,” said Bakker. “Quite a few have been bringing in supplies as opposed to money.”

Students raised $184 in cash as well as the items they collected. Becker and a friend, Kaden Sousa, from another advisory class, rode their bikes around the neighborhood and collected $55 in about 90 minutes. The pair sought $2 donations or offered to do chores, although no one took them up on work proposals.

Bakker used the money to buy backpacks. Lower-priced backpacks were already gone from stores, but she was able to get some office backpacks and 12 drawstring backpacks.

Sixth-grader Katie Bowling had a lot of empathy for the project. Her cousin’s home in Redding, California, was surrounded by flames during the Carr fire earlier in the summer. While many houses in the neighborhood were lost, the cousin’s survived.

“My cousin was almost one of those kids (in Paradise),” said Bowling, who brought in scarves, toys, two backpacks, paper and more.

Bakker has used the effort to inform students about wildfires and their impacts.

“We have been at a pretty generic level. We talked about how the fire started up really fast and the families just couldn’t have gone to the house to save anything,” said Bakker. “That and why people join in helping these people who lost so much; all their toys, their memories and their support.”

“It has been fun watching them get involved and want to help. Overall when they stop thinking about themselves and think about other people for a change (you see) how caring they are,” said Bakker.

Advisory classes serve as a place where students can get the support they may not receive elsewhere, as well as the chance to get help with homework, academic progress and goals. The classes include kids from sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneTalent Middle School advisory class students fill backpacks with supplies Thursday for Camp Fire victims.