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Shepherd student helping kids stay warm

January 17, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- The child's reason for being sleepy at school one day was tragically simple -- it was his father's turn to have the blanket to sleep the night before.

Other children at area schools have exhibited more obvious signs of poverty -- dark lines under their eyes and dirty hair.

"They don't look like they've been abused, they just look like they don't have the resources," said Sara Miller, a Shepherd University student studying to be a guidance counselor. "You hear a lot of horror stories from different educators, different students and people talk ... they talk about what students have told them, what families have told them, what they've seen personally ..."

After seeing the signs of need firsthand while taking an education class last fall, Miller decided she needed to do something to help.

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"I know that I can't ... fix everything. It's kind of impossible for one person to do," Miller said of the ongoing jacket and blanket drive she launched for children in Berkeley and Jefferson counties about a month before Christmas. "But as long as you get something done, as long as you can help a few people ... and I know that I've helped at least a few."

She actually has helped a quite a few more than that, thanks to an outpouring of support from residents and businesses, including Citizens National Bank, which agreed to have donation boxes at its branch locations in Berkeley County.

A senior airman with the West Virginia Air National Guard at the 167th Airlift Wing's base south of Martinsburg, Miller said she has received the unit's support, along with support from the Shepherd Education Student Association and other businesses.

"I didn't think it was going to be that large ... At one point, I pretty much had no room in my living room," Miller said of the donated items that piled up.

She plans to keep the project going until winter breaks.

"I didn't want to make this a holiday thing," Miller said. "There was a couple of kids that I saw and I was working with them that really needed the help."

Miller downplays her charitable effort, crediting the people who have taken the time and responded to her request to "go through their closets" and drop off a donation.

"I'm just delivering, pretty much," Miller said.

So far, Miller has taken donated items to a couple of schools and to The Salvation Army in Martinsburg, which confirmed Miller's contribution Friday.

"It gives you incentive to do some spring cleaning ... a little bit early," Miller said.

Growing up in Hedgesville, W.Va., Miller said she saw children that didn't have much and some were her friends.

"I've never really realized the complete lack ... like some of the stories that I've heard," Miller said.

Now, after hearing them, Miller said she felt compelled to do something.

"Charity is very important," Miller said. "I've always believed that."

Jackets and blankets can be dropped off at Citizens National Bank branches at 14994 Apple Harvest Drive in Martinsburg, 2646 Hedgesville Road west of Martinsburg, and 1231 T.J. Jackson Drive near Falling Waters, W.Va.

For information, call Miller at 304-268-4711 or send an e-mail to jmille12@shepherd.edu.

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