Couture said the Freedom Club has changed her for the better.
“It makes me value them (veterans) because they’ve made me grow as a person to realize how important our country is and how I need to become more of a citizen and help out as much as I can.”
‘BIGGER AND BIGGER’
It all started about 12 years ago when Saranac High School teacher Elise Beaulieu taught a lesson on homeless veterans in her senior sociology class.
Then she invited local veterans groups to her classroom to speak to the students; the kids also collected can openers to donate to homeless vets.
The next year, the students collected food items for veterans in need and collected money to build handicap ramps for disabled veterans.
The club raised enough to build three ramps that year, Beaulieu said, and at least one has been constructed every year since then.
“It just kept getting bigger and bigger.”
Then a yearly trip was instituted, when students tour the 9-11 terrorism sites in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Gettysburg, Pa.
Past club members sewed a quilt that is on display at the Pentagon and raised money to dedicate a cobblestone where the Twin Towers stood to the memory of the late Joshua Sullivan, a former Freedom Club president.
The Freedom Club collects about 1,000 pounds of food every year that is distributed locally by the North Country Veterans Association, Beaulieu said.
About three years ago, homeroom groups competed to collect items to send to U.S. Marine Evan Dashnaw, who was serving in Afghanistan.
Dashnaw is a former student of Beaulieu’s.
The Saranac Central students were able to raise $900 to send 58 packages to him, with items provided by the club and Dashnaw’s family.
“We took care of the whole platoon for a long time.”