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What’s in the Bag?

Through something as simple and unassuming as a bag, SkillsUSA Vermont students show the most vulnerable members of their community that they’re supported, valued and loved.
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Photo provided by North Country Career Center. Used with permission.

Throughout the past year, SkillsUSA members across the country have refused to let a global pandemic stop them from serving their communities. Those ranks of dedicated servant leaders include students from North Country Career Center (NCCC) in Newport, Vt., who found a unique way to help local foster children through their affectionately named “Bags of Love” service effort this past winter.

The program was born when NCCC students discovered that the local Department of Children and Families (DCF) was looking to provide the foster children under their care with necessary personal items as winter approached (hats, mittens, etc.) as well as simple belongings that could provide a sense of comfort and security to the children when entering a new home. Looking to help fill that need, NCCC students first created bags and blankets by hand and then began collecting items to fill those bags. Along with the aforementioned winter-ready clothing items, the “Bags of Love” also included books, toys, personal hygiene items and more. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, these committed members also found ways to collect donations from local businesses and other community members to help the effort. The result was additional diapers, wipes and other items for younger children as well as a variety of gift cards.

The program hit all three components of the SkillsUSA Framework; these motivated members showed Personal Skills by taking the initiative to reach out to the community while demonstrating flexibility and adaptability in relation to timelines and other challenges related to the project. They demonstrated Technical Skills by following safety guidelines and creating the bags and blankets that were a part of their effort. Finally, they showed Workplace Skills through decision making and communication with the local community.

In the process, students learned valuable life skills, including a real-world understanding of the impact a community can have when all work together toward a common goal.

“Doing this community service project during COVID is an incredible feat,” says a thankful Tammy Lalime, resource coordinator for DCF. “Helping meet the community’s need is always appreciated.” 

For these NCCC SkillsUSA students, the true reward of their efforts is knowing that their donations will help local foster children and families by providing them a measure of comfort and security during tough times.

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