Third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students at elementary schools in Newberg are getting a firsthand lesson about giving back thanks to a program run by the Newberg chapter of Kiwanis.
Kevin Purcell, one of the adult members of the local club, helped start the K-Kids programs at local schools as a way to extend Kiwanis' impact locally.
"I was a principal and director of special programs in the Newberg School District for a lot of years," he said. "Kiwanis is a service club with an international reach that aims to help out communities through volunteer work. The K-Kids program is the elementary school version of this."
Programs exist at Mabel Rush, Joan Austin, Edwards and Crater elementary schools. The club is still looking for a parent to help start up a program at Ewing Young Elementary, but the impact of the K-Kids program is already being felt.
"They do different activities to help the school climate and help out in the community," Purcell said. "Joan Austin Elementary has a 'caring kittens' program where they gather supplies for the (Newberg) animal shelter to help care for kittens over there. Mabel Rush has its 'I Will Be Your Friend' program, too."
The Mabel Rush program is the largest of any of the elementary schools, boasting 25 to 30 members. Among their projects is a "kindness box," which allows kids to write down on a piece of paper when they see someone being kind and place it in the box. The club meets every Wednesday, so on a weekly basis they draw a name out of that box and give a prize to whomever is drawn. This – along with myriad other programs and projects initiated by the K-Kids – has promoted kindness and volunteerism among Newberg's youngsters.
At Edwards Elementary, the K-Kids thought of an idea called a "buddy bench," which is a bench that kids can go to during recess if they are feeling lonely and need someone to play with. This has led to an improved social environment at the school and it stems from the K-Kids program.
"The whole idea is about service and developing leadership," Purcell said. "The program, K-kids, is about inclusion and everybody is included."
Purcell recruits parents to lead the programs at the schools and he said they are the ones that do the real work of organizing the kids and getting them involved in projects. Newberg Kiwanis also sponsors a "Builder's Club" at Chehalem Valley Middle School and the Key Club at Newberg High School.
The work is rewarding for the elementary school students and starts them early on a path of kindness and helping out their neighbors, Purcell said. He hopes more kids will join and more parents at various schools will volunteer to lead the programs.
"The kids love it," he said. "It's full of energy, the kids are engaged and they have fun. The kids get an idea about providing a service to other people and that volunteering in that way makes you feel good. It's a way to make our community and world a little better."
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