PAOLA — Students involved in Sunflower Elementary’s new Kids Connect Club are already making an impact on their community that stretches far beyond the walls of their Paola school.

With the help of fellow teachers Malinda Chappell, Blair Burke and Jamie McDaniel, Sunflower interrelated teacher Paula Gage created the club and kicked it off this school year.

Gage made headlines this spring when she was named Paola USD 368’s Elementary Teacher of the Year. Each teacher of the year gets funding for a school project, and Gage said she wanted her teacher project to involve civic engagement.

“I want the children to love and have pride in their community and for our community to invest in our future leaders,” she said.

The Kids Connect Club, which meets every Tuesday, has turned Gage’s vision into reality.

The club features 19 students in grades 3-5, and they most recently tackled a community service project designed to get socks into the hands of those who need them in the community.

Gage said the project was possible thanks to a partnership with Bombas socks, which donates a pair of socks for every pair it sells.

The sock company’s website explains that its name comes from the Latin word for bumblebee, which is the organization’s logo.

“Bees live in a hive and work together to make their world a better place. They’re small, but their combined actions have a big impact on the world,” the company states on its website, www.bombas.com. “We like that. That’s why our mantra is bee better. We put this reminder inside each Bombas clothing item as a reminder that little improvements can add up to make a big difference, and that your purchase went towards directly helping someone in need.”

Gage said the Kids Connect Club were given 1,800 pairs of Bombas socks to give out, and the students quickly went to work writing emails to local organizations to see if they are in need of socks.

They then got busy personalizing each pair with a Sunflower Elementary Kids Connect Club sticker. Each sock also comes with a message that reads: “This is a pair of specially designed Bombas donation socks. They are knit with love, made from high quality yarns, and engineered for comfort, durability and warmth.”

The first 200 pairs recently were given to the Serving Our Students (S.O.S.) organization that helps local families in the Paola USD 368 school district. S.O.S. representative Jimmy Hay was more than happy to stop by the school and pick up the boxes.

Several additional pairs have been given to other local organizations, including the Coats for Folks project in Louisburg, Tri-ko, My Father’s House, Life Skills program, North Point Skilled Nursing and the Paola Police Department for the Shop with a Cop program.

Some pairs were also given to the school nurses at each Paola school because they are always in need of socks.

Gage said she has been impressed with the way the club members have embraced the idea of community service, and she mentioned that as bonus, they are accumulating service hours that could make them eligible for the President’s Volunteer Service Award.

Editor and Publisher Brian McCauley can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or brian.mccauley@miconews.com.

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