The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

November 11, 2013

Class makes dog blankets for shelter

By Jessica Farrish
For The Register-Herald

— Oak Hill High School students are giving back to the community by helping the four-legged members of society.

Tana Higginbotham’s freshman Learning Individualized Needs Knowledge and Skills (LINKS) class members each needed to complete 25 hours of community service, a requisite for high schoolers in Fayette County.

Higginbotham said she decided to incorporate the community service hours into her lesson plans for LINKS students, so she told her students to research community projects online for ideas.

Megan Shelton, 15, had the winning plan to make blankets for dogs at the New River Humane Society animal shelter.

“They need all the blankets they can get,” Shelton explained. “I brought the idea to Ms. Higg, and everybody in the class immediately said it was a great idea and what they wanted to do.”

So the students began collecting their materials from home: fleece, sweatshirts and towels were brought into the classroom, and the work on the blankets started.

“We spend class periods putting the blankets together,” explained Shelton.

The project was met with tons of enthusiasm, said Higginbotham.

“What they do is cut the fabric in squares, and they learn to braid edging so it looks like a little border,” she explained. “It’s very, very pretty.

“What surprised me most is the boys really love it.”

Jared Richards, 15, said most of the 19 students “were pretty clueless in how to do it” when they first started the process of turning material into a completed blanket.

“In the very beginning, I was like, ‘Wow, this is crazy,’” he said. “Then I was like, ‘Wow, this is a great idea.’

“It’s just a fun experience to do something new.

“That way, you’re not always doing the same thing,” Richards explained. “You’re doing different things and having fun while you’re doing it.”

Now, Richards said, his role in the project is to “just help everybody.”

“I go around and join in when I can,” he explained. “The most fun part is everybody working together and doing this for a good cause.”

The most challenging part has been learning to use crochet needles, Richards reported.

“We’ve been doing a thing with crochet needles to make a cool design on the edges of it, and that’s very tough if you’re just starting with that,” he added.

Higginbotham said the class has completed about 15 blankets so far, and the project will continue throughout the year.

“They’re going to make some chew toys for the pets at the humane society,” she said, adding that the chew toys project will be another way the teenagers serve the community.

“Kids like to do things, in addition to academics,” said Higginbotham. “They like to get involved.”

Brittney Smith, office manager of the New River Humane Society, said each dog will be given a blanket once it is adopted.

“It means the world to us, plus the animals, with people getting involved like that,” said Smith. “It could bring more people out to adopt, hopefully.”

—  E-mail: jfarrish@register-herald.com