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Banfield celebrating King through service

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As local residents celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Austin Public School students are taking Dr. King’s message of service to another level.

Banfield fifth-grader Collin Coyle cuts the edges of two seperate blankets into ribbons so the two sides can be tied together as part of the school's Martin Luther King Jr. Day service project.

Banfield Elementary School fifth-grader Chase Witiak worked hard to help the community’s needy. He took out garbage and cleaned the house to earn a dollar, which he used for part of Banfield’s blanket making project. Witiak, along with the rest of Banfield’s students, put together no-sew blankets Friday for the school’s MLK service project. All Austin schools will start a service project in honor of King this month, with the hope of spreading King’s message to give back to the community.

“It’s good to help people,” Witiak said.

Banfield’s equity team, a staff group designed to promote integration, decided on blanket making after the students had started a similar project.

“We wanted the kids to make something,” said Sharon Hoefflin, Banfield English Language Learning teacher.

Hoefflin said making blankets for the community’s needy was a good lesson for the students, though staff wanted students to feel like they worked to help others.


That’s why each student was tasked with earning $1 from their parents or relatives by doing choirs. That money went toward buying fabric for students to turn into “no-sew blankets” by tying the outer edges of two giant sheets together.

“This is great,” said Banfield Principal Jeff Roland Friday during the service project. “Everybody can do a little something.”

The students were excited to do their part as well.

“It’s nice,” said Kiara Johnson, Banfield fourth-grader.

Banfield’s blankets don’t have a set home yet, but Hoefflin said staff is in contact with area nursing homes, Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin and possibly the Welcome Center to donate blankets to needy seniors, newborns and anyone who needs them in the community.

Other schools will join in the fun, from book drives to book making and other projects. Southgate Elementary School will kick off a book drive Monday to help the Sojourner Truth Academy, a Minneapolis charter school for students in poverty. One of Southgate’s former teachers has a daughter who works there, and Southgate’s equity team decided to assist the school.

“We decided that it would be really nice to help someone else,” said Nicole Caporale, head of Southgate’s equity team. “We do a lot of things to raise money for our own interest, and it’s also nice to think of others too.”

Southgate students will have a display at the Austin Human Rights Commission’s MLK celebration 7 p.m. Monday at the Frank W. Bridges Theatre at Riverland Community College. Southgate’s book drive runs through the week and residents can bring unused or lightly used books of all sorts down.

Of course, Austin students won’t be helping others without learning a few things about King.

“He helped people and we’re kind of doing the same thing,” said Banfield fourth-grader Aaliyah Andrade. “We’re helping people by making blankets.”