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Falmouth students perform acts of kindness across southern Maine

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Falmouth students perform acts of kindness across southern Maine

FALMOUTH — Instead of sitting in classrooms on June 8, eighth-graders at Falmouth Middle School spent the day giving back to their community.

Maggie Seitz, Mary Woolsey, Riley Burnfeind, Young Jin Kim and Ben Dobbins cleaned out animal cages and washed towels and bedding at the Animal Refuge League in Westbrook.

"It's a lot harder than we thought to run an animal shelter," Dobbins said.

All of them agreed the job was smelly and gross.

"It was really fun, though," Woolsey added.

Nearly 200 Falmouth eighth-graders participated in the day of service, where they each spent two hours volunteering at one of the 21 participating agencies. In addition to the Animal Refuge League, the agencies included the Falmouth Memorial Library, Portland Trails, Habitat for Humanity, Good Shepherd Food Bank and the Maine Veterans Home.

"They learned all about the history of the agencies, they did research and found out what needs they covered," said Holly MacEwan, the service learning coordinator for Falmouth schools.

MacEwan said after the students did some research, they filled out request forms to indicate their top choices for where they wanted to volunteer. Then MacEwan and the other faculty members matched students with agencies.

"The agencies were great about answering their questions and being available to talk to them," MacEwan said.

Last year, students who did not travel to Washington, D.C., had the option to participate in a day of service. This was the first time all of the eighth-graders participated in the program.

The logistics of transporting 197 students all around southern Maine was trickier than the organizers anticipated. Parents volunteered to chaperon and transport students, and a staggered system of buses dropped students off at their agencies. However, there were still a few late arrivals and one group nearly missed lunch.

But MacEwan seemed unfazed.

"We'll plan better for that next year," she said. 

"This is a really great experience for them," Middle School Principal Sue Palfrey said. 

Palfrey said that once the students returned from their trips, they prepared presentations for each other and their parents using photos they took at the sites, and presented them to the public on June 10. 

"You could just see the enthusiasm," Palfrey said.

Eighth-grade teacher Christopher Driscoll went along with several students in his class to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Portland. The group cleared out a large pile of commercial flooring material that could not be sold at the store to make room for other items that could be sold to benefit Habitat for Humanity projects.

"Once the kids saw the work that had been done," Driscoll said, "they were really proud of themselves."

He said the group packed up and hauled two truckloads – close to five tons of flooring – out of the store.

"We cleaned out the storage facility," Driscoll said. "Now they have space for new items."

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net