An Emporia Middle School club is continuing its mission of community service while adapting to the pandemic.

The Interact Club is an after school club in partnership with the Rotary Club of Emporia in 2011. The members refer to themselves as “Interacters” and say they started the 2019-20 academic school year like any other — full of service projects.

When the pandemic hit in the spring, the club was able to quickly adapt to continue helping remotely.

The club has had a lot of fund drives, campaigns and fundraisers to help local organizations and places around the world. The students have worked with Abundant Harvest, SOS and Kansas Children’s Service League as well as Heifer International, according to club facilitator and seventh grade world studies teacher Andrew Hawley.

“I was really impressed with the drive they did last year,” Hawley said.

Before spring break, the Interacters started the Help Mother, Help Child campaign donation drive for SOS, Inc. and the Kansas Children’s Service League. The drive was to raise money and take donations for basic necessities — like toothpaste, baby shampoo and diapers — to help mothers and babies.

“I thought it was great the fact that we had a drive and we were able to get a couple of hundred dollars in donations for SOS and KCSL,” Hawley said. “The students want more and they came up with another idea.”

Katie Acevedo joined the club during her sixth grade year from 2018-19.

“That day we were helping with dictionaries, like putting stickers on them and packaging them,” she said. “I was kind of excited. Then, we had some pizza to celebrate and I was like ‘you know what? This is not too bad, I will come back.’”

Acevedo said the Rotary Club and the Interact Club gifted the dictionaries to third graders at Timmerman Elementary later in the fall of 2018.

Before the pandemic, Acevedo’s favorite projects were the popsicle stand and the Feed the Baby fundraiser — a cornhole game.

Although she could not remember what the popsicle stand was her, she knew for sure that she had fun organizing and buying popsicles.

She had fun giving away candy to participants for the Feed the Baby fundraiser. That fundraiser featured a cornhole board that looked like a baby, and the goal was to feed the baby as many bean bags as possible.

“Then, we raised another couple hundred dollars,” Hawley said excitedly. “We took another shopping trip to Walmart. They were able to buy even more things.”

Then, spring break happened with a looming pandemic. Although the students did not return to campus, they were able to pivot and continue serving. In April, they donated to KCSL and donated to SOS in May.

“When it hit in the spring, one of the things we looked at was helping people who might not receive a lot of communication,” Hawley said. “Those were the people we chose to serve at that time.”

Students sent letters to nursing homes and people who had to quarantine to keep them informed of what was going on.

The Interact Club had their first virtual meeting after school on Oct. 13 to discuss what projects they will do this year.

“A lot of people do not like turning on their cameras and everything, there are a lot of people who are lonely,” Acevedo said. “So, we are trying to figure out a way to help make friends in middle school.”

Hawley shared that the big school project this year is trying to help students who are experiencing loneliness and isolation make friends and connections with other people in school. He said the Interacters would send positive notes, letters and emails to other students at EMS to help students reconnect and bring some positivity during COVID-19.

One of Hawley’s favorite things about being the facilitator is that he does not have to do much — the students decide what to do — and he is just there to set up the framework for discussion and guide them.

“You just help others out and you are not really doing it for you, you are doing it for others,” Acevedo agreed. “You are helping others and you should not really expect to get anything in return.”

Hawley said any EMS students interested in the club can contact him at andrew.hawley@usd253.net for more information.

Visit the Rotary Club of Emporia’s website for more information about Rotary or Interact at https://rotaryemporia.com.

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