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"Last year's worked out well that way," said Ott, referring to 2009's "Project Helping Hands," which instead of money, "collected" volunteers to help various nonprofit organizations in the area.

"We thought it was a really good idea," Ott said of this year's project, "and we've gotten a lot of positive feedback from our community about the project. The response was pretty darn good."

Pretty darn good, indeed. The students surpassed their goal by nearly 500 items, said Ott.

"When we had our culminating assembly, we had 3,019 items boxed and ready to go, with a total of 3,475 pledged," said Ott, who gave students an extra week to bring in any extra donations.

Fifth-grader Victoria Bruno said she enjoyed participating in the project because she knows the donations will greatly assist the food shelf.

"I think it was the best project yet because we helped a lot of people," said Bruno. "It felt really good to work together."

"It felt really good to help other people because we did it all together," agreed fifth-grader Grace Thew. "We're very lucky and fortunate to have all this food."

Sophia Stevens, another fifth-grade student, said a project like this helps students such as herself understand each person can make a difference.

"I think it's good to get us involved at a young age, because when we get older, we can help even more," said Stevens.

"It's such a lot of fun to see the kids get it," Ott said of the concept of helping others. "Our whole point is to help our neighbors in the North Country. And, it's important to know the lessons learned this year are as valid and as important as they were 14 years ago."

"None of us could have done this single-handed," he added. "Everybody who participated in this helped prove our concept that together, we can."

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