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Young Paramount students inspired by books help those in need

March 05, 2013|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • Drew Lobley, 6, walks past beds at the REACH cold weather shelter while taking a tour with his dad and shelter administrator Nancy Derrick on Monday afternoon. Drew collected blankets and pillows to donate to the shelter.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

Two young Paramount Elementary School students have taken books read in class to heart, in a way that is helping others.

Drew Lobley’s kindergarten teacher Lucy Austin read “The Quiltmaker’s Gift” by Jeff Brumbeau to the class.

In the book, a generous quiltmaker sews the most beautiful quilts, then gives them to the poor. She helps a selfish king learn that giving is the true secret to happiness.

That got Drew, the 6-year-old son of Andrew and Victoria Lobley of Hagerstown, thinking. One evening not long after hearing the story, Drew tearfully asked his father what people without homes do when it’s cold outside.

They talked about homeless shelters or finding a warm place to sleep. Drew then asked if his parents could make quilts for homeless people. That led to the idea of buying blankets, with Drew wanting to use his own money to purchase some.

A member of Sunrise Rotary in Hagerstown, Andrew Lobley contacted two Rotary colleagues who serve on the boards of the REACH Shelter and St. John’s Shelter, a ministry of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Hagerstown.

When they confirmed that blankets are needed at both shelters, the Lobley family set a goal of collecting 20 blankets, with 10 going to each shelter.

Austin, who volunteers at the REACH Shelter through her church, asked the Lobleys if the rest of the class could help with the blanket drive. Drew was featured on the school’s morning announcements and the class made posters publicizing the drive throughout the school.

The blankets were delivered to the REACH Shelter on the afternoon of March 4, with Drew and his family receiving a tour of the facility before the guests arrived for the evening. Five families living at the  St. John’s Shelter received blankets on March 1.

Sixty-six blankets and 12 pillows were collected in less than two weeks’ time, to be split between the two shelters. More than half of the blankets came from Drew’s class, with the rest coming from neighbors, friends and family, Andrew Lobley said.

“Drew is really a great kid with a big heart. He goes out of his way to help others, not because he wants attention or praise, but because it is the right thing to do. And most of the time you would never know he did anything unless you saw it firsthand. I cannot begin to tell you how excited he is to deliver these blankets,” Andrew Lobley said.

Paramount second-grader Zachary Arensdorf of Hagerstown was also inspired by a story ready by his teacher, Kelly-Jo Kibler. “Millie’s Garden” by Pam Zollman is the two-page read-aloud book that provided the spark.

The book got Zachary, 7, thinking about homeless people and what he could do to help. Zachary’s grandparents, Quentin and Sandy Fleming, provide after-school care for Zachary.

His grandfather, a REACH volunteer, suggested they look on the REACH website and discovered they needed boxes of cereal.

Zachary, the son of Suzanne and James Arensdorf, went door-to-door with his grandfather seeking donations from his grandparent’s neighbors and raised $37 and collected five boxes of cereal and a 1-gallon can of pears.

That evening, with coupons and savvy shopping, the money was able to purchase 20 more boxes of cereal. Zachary delivered the cereal to REACH on Jan. 24, the day after he started his cereal drive.

“I was very proud of him. I don’t think a lot of kids these days think that way. He’s very concerned about others,” Suzanne Arensdorf said.

“Young children – basically their hearts are being touched and they’re taking action for others,” said REACH Executive Director Jodie Ostoich.

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