• Children decorate holiday grocery bags

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    Students from MacArthur Elementary School — kindergarten through sixth-grade —decorated brown paper grocery bags, signing each with their name, and six student volunteers passed them out Dec. 18 to Fort Leavenworth Commissary shoppers, including retirees, parents and firefighters.
    Chosen designs included the Grinch, reindeer, Santa Claus, snowmen, elves, nutcrackers, Christmas trees, and ornaments and lights, which were made with tempera paint, markers and Cray-Pas — a combination of crayons and pastels. In all, the children decorated nearly 400 bags to pass out.
    “This is a community service project just to kind of give back to the community, and we have so many talented kids … I just thought we’d share their talents with this great community we live in,” said MacArthur Elementary art teacher Gretchen Martens. “Every child’s an artist. That’s my big theme in there. They are. Every single one.”
    Martens said this project was a big help in showing the community the children’s talents.
    “If they don’t come into our schools, people don’t see how talented our kids are. Who wouldn’t want to share the talents of these little kids,” she said.
    Last year, after students decorated the bags, they were placed in bins around the Commissary, but Martens received feedback that the bags should have been more spread out, so this year volunteers handed them out. She said by handing out the bags, there was also an opportunity to teach the children about leadership.
    Third-grader Kate Lenahan, who drew a nutcracker on her bag, said she simply loved getting to do the project, and sixth-grader Melanie Libby said doing the project combined all the things she loved into one thing.
    “I really enjoy both the holidays and volunteering, so this was the perfect combination of both. I also like to draw so it’s all of my hobbies in one,” Melanie said. “I feel like it gets a lot more people more festive for the holidays. It gets everyone at Mac more into decorating and spreading the joy throughout the holidays.”
    Sixth-grader Creighton Lenahan said he had fun.
    “I like painting them because it was fun in art class to do (and) I like giving them away. It’s fun to give them away,” Creighton said. “I like finding the art of people from my class, too.”
    Sixth-grader Murdoc Bradley said he liked handing them out.
    “I just like to help out. I just tried making it my best,” he said of his drawing of the Grinch.
    Murdoc’s mother, Denisse Findlay said projects like this are helpful for her son.
    Page 2 of 2 - “My son’s very soft spoken and whenever he comes out and does stuff like this, he speaks out,” Findlay said. “He’s the one in front and it helps him to get out of his shell.”
    Findlay said doing the project and sharing their artwork builds up the students’ confidence.
    “It’s getting everyone in the Christmas spirit,” Findlay said. “They feel like they’re changing people’s attitudes, even by something so small. They can give them something and make them smile. Whenever they see people smile, they can feel that; that they’re doing something good for their community.”
    Commissary patron retired Sgt. Maj. Jim Lawrence told the students that he was going to use his Grinch-themed bag to give back.
    “Tell Kate I’m going to fill up her bag, and when the Commissary has a box for the needy, I’m going to give it to them and I’m going to re-gift it,” he said.
    Martens said the Commissary did a lot to make the event happen, including donating the bags and allowing the students to distribute them.
    “We appreciate the Commissary giving us this opportunity,” she said. “We have a great community here.”
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