CHARLOTTESVILLE — Debbie Froman looked around the room, beaming.
Her fourth-graders had just finished piling 100 handmade fleece blankets onto a table, knowing the blankets would soon be in the arms of area foster children, then took turns reading short essays about what the craft project had taught them.
This was a lot of hard work but for a good cause, one student said. We got help other kids, another chimed in.
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“I think they got it,” Froman said, leaning over to a co-worker, a wide grin spreading across her face.
Fourth-graders from Eastern Hancock Elementary School this week gifted 100 blankets to the Bag Ladies Quilt Club, a Hancock County volunteer organization whose mission is to provide kids a bit of comfort in times of trauma.
Each year, the Bag Ladies deliver about 200 handmade blankets to the Indiana Department of Child Services office in downtown Greenfield to be given to a child as they are removed from their homes and placed in foster care.
In some cases, the blanket is the only thing a child takes with them, organizer said.
Led by Froman, the more than 90 members of Eastern’s fourth-grade class began making blankets for their less-fortunate peers earlier this year as part of a wider lesson meant to teach the students about compassion and understanding.
The students spent about an hour a week for three weeks making the blankets. They collected money to purchase supplies, bought hundreds of yards of fleece, then pieced together the fabric, tying the ends tight to make a comfy throw.
Along the way, they learned a bit about foster care and the hardships some people — even those as young as they are — face every day, Froman said. There were 7,280 children placed in non-relative foster care at the end of 2017, according to the Indiana Department of Child Services.
Wednesday, just before their big Valentine’s Day party, they presented the blankets to Nancy Hunnicutt, an awestruck member of the Bag Ladies.
Their group is used to getting donations of fabric and string; but they rarely get donations of already-made blankets — especially not a donation this large, Hunnicutt said.
“You kiddos have made a huge difference,” she said the children, thanking them for their hard work.
Eastern Hancock strives to produce well-rounded students, elementary Principal Amanda Pyle said after the presentation Wednesday. So, along with reading, writing and arithmetic, children need to learn about empathy and how to treat their fellows with respect, she said.
Eastern’s teachers work hard to incorporate such life lessons into their daily classroom curriculum. Service projects like these are a perfect way to achieve those teaching goals, Pyle said.