PLATTSBURGH — The cancellation of the North Country Honor Run has not stopped Beekmantown Middle School's seventh-graders from coming up with a way to both honor those who served and help the community.
While learning from home, they have been coordinating with their teachers, North Country Honor Flight, the United Way of the Adirondack Region Inc. and several local fire departments to organize the North Country Honor Drive set for Saturday.
The 116 seventh-graders and seven teachers make up Team Ascent, one of BMS's project-based learning teams.
Student Cameron Benware recalled when discussions began about how the seventh grade could help people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of people were saying like, ‘Oh, why don’t we bring in food or give away masks?' And then we kind of put those ideas together for the drive.”
From 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, firefighters will be on hand at the Friendly's parking lot as well as the Beekmantown, West Chazy, Peru, Keeseville and City of Plattsburgh Cornelia Street fire stations so people can drop off their donations without even having to leave their cars.
The Town of Plattsburgh District #3 Volunteer Fire Department, accompanied by its Cadyville and Morrisonville counterparts, will display an American flag using their aerial truck from the Friendly’s parking lot off Route 3 in Plattsburgh.
Team Ascent ELA teacher Rebecca Hamilton said it was was nice to have a network of community resources to assist with doing something nice for the community since students are not able to help out in-person as they normally would.
“We can’t have our students out in the world right now and so the ... fire departments helping us and being the pick-up and the drop-off, that’s huge for the drive, otherwise it wouldn’t be able to happen.”
The firefighters will distribute one thousand cloth masks, secured by Beekmantown Central School District Superintendent of Schools Dan Mannix from The Mask Hub, a project developed by Northwood School junior Quy-An “Q” NguyenLe.
'THEY'VE DONE SO MUCH'
Last year's seventh-graders raised $19,000 for North Country Honor Flight through the Honor Run; this year's had hoped to surpass that goal before Honor Flights and the run were canceled due to COVID-19.
With the Honor Drive, it’s about getting as many people to donate as possible, Benware said.
She added that it is important to give back to the community and let veterans know they are appreciated because “they’ve done so much for us.”
“We really wanted to give back and help out our community during this really hard time because a lot of people say they don’t have face masks or they don’t have food.
"And since the veterans couldn’t get their chance in the spotlight for the Honor Run, we wanted to kind of help them out I guess during this time, too.”
“To do it in honor of our veterans was a nice statement by those seventh-grade kids,” North Country Honor Flight Director Barrie Finnegan said.
He noted that the National Honor Flight has handed down a no-fly order until at least the end of August, though local chapters can begin meeting and fundraising in ways that align with local, state and federal guidelines regarding COVID-19 starting June 1.
While working from home, Team Ascent students have created content for the Eagles Care Facebook and Instagram pages and recorded radio commercials in order to help spread the word about the Honor Drive.
They have also worked on other Eagles Care projects, including gratitude videos for essential employees and making cards, Hamilton said.
Both Benware and Hamilton noted the challenge of coordinating the Honor Drive remotely and how Team Ascent has used tools like email and Google Meet to work together.
“We ... coach students over the phone and through Google Meets and sent them to call these organizations and we’re not sitting next to them, but trusting that they’re confident and that they can do the right thing," Hamilton said.
Planning for the Honor Run had started in September; the Honor Drive came together over nine weeks of distance learning, she added.
"We’re really proud of the amount of work that they’ve put in in such a short amount of time.”
United Way of the Adirondack Region Director of Development Kathy Snow said her organization has been monitoring where the needs are greatest and will give the items to those places, such as the Salvation Army.
“We are so pleased to partner up with Beekmantown Central School seventh-graders and the fire departments to assist with this great initiative," she added.
"It exemplifies the tremendous spirit of compassion and empathy in this region.”
Snow noted in particular the need for personal care products such as toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner and soap; cleaning and laundry products; toilet paper and garbage bags; and food items including pasta, sauces, mayonnaise, canned goods and microwave food items.
On Tuesday, the fire departments will deliver the donations to the United Way, which will sanitize them before they go to places in need, Hamilton said.
SUPPORT THE COMMUNITY
The students’ partnership with the North Country Honor Flight will continue as the school year winds down, Hamilton said.
They will present veterans with a gratitude video thanking them for their service, as well as masks and notes.
Benware urged people to support the community through Saturday's Honor Drive.
“Come help out people because … maybe they’ve helped you out in a time where you needed it so maybe you can give back and help them, too.”
Email Cara Chapman:
HOW TO HELP
The North Country Honor Drive will take place from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 23.
The Town of Plattsburgh District #3 Volunteer Fire Department, accompanied by the Morrisonville and Cadyville departments, will be set up in the Friendly's parking lot to collect non-perishable food items and household/hygiene supplies.
Other drop-off locations are the Beekmantown, West Chazy, Peru and Keeseville volunteer fire departments, and the City of Plattsburgh Fire Department’s Station One on Cornelia Street.
For more information and to check out what else the Beekmantown seventh-graders have been doing, visit facebook.com/eaglescareBMS/ or Eagles Care BMS on Instagram.