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Students giving back to the community

MORRISONVILLE - While President Barack Obama has recently called upon Americans to join together to strengthen the nation, one local school has been doing just that for years to strengthen the North Country.

Morrisonville Elementary School recently wrapped up Community Contributor Month, which it celebrates every January to encourage students and their families to give back to the community.

According to principal Bradley J. Ott, the event has been held since the 1996 flooding of the Saranac River, which devastated nearby homes and businesses. That single catastrophe prompted the school to raise $22,000 to help their friends and neighbors in what was dubbed "Project Flood Relief." Though the flood waters receded, Ott said it was important the outpouring of support did not. He wanted to assure students continued to know what an impact they can make both through donations and volunteering.

"Each year we kick things off with a student assembly, highlighting what it means to volunteer," said Ott.

Students also participate in classroom projects, which have not only helped people on the local level, but have made a difference thousands of miles away as well. This year, the administration wanted the students and their families to get involved. "Project Helping Hands" was born, gathering nonprofit and service organizations from around the area for a volunteer registration night Jan. 22. There, organizations like Literacy Volunteers of Clinton County and the American Red Cross were on hand to tell the community more about what they do and how people can help.

"In these times, we can only go to the well so often, asking for money with fundraisers and whatever," said Ott. "Instead of fundraising or collecting things, we decided to collect people - specifically hours from people."

Raeanne McLaughlin, executive director of Pine Harbour Assisted Living in Plattsburgh, said she was excited to host a booth at the volunteer recruitment night. Pine Harbour residents, who are senior citizens, typically enjoy having children visit them, which is what McLaughlin said she was looking for in volunteers.

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