BELLVILLE -- Kourtney Kucirek wants to do more than teach her students a skill. The family and consumer sciences teacher at Clear Fork High School also wants to teach them how to be generous.
In the past, the students in Kucirek's advanced sewing class have donated items to the local fire station and the humane society. This year, she asked her students for ideas.
They chose to spend a large part of the semester creating gifts for Harmony House clients, and toys for the animals at the Humane Society of Richland County.
The class made a total of 11 blankets, 13 pillows, 11 pet toys and various stuffed animals. They delivered them to their respective sites the week before Christmas break.
“I'm just extremely proud of all the hard work they put into it," Kucirek said. "I haven't had a class do that much work, probably since I've worked here."
Kucirek taught sewing in the Ashland City Schools before coming to Clear Fork nine years ago.
“(Students) really have to do a lot of critical thinking," she said. "There’s measuring, there's a lot of math involved. So I think it's like cross curricular.”
Some of the students have already put their skills to work outside the classroom, mending their own clothes and embroidering gifts for friends.
Students used a more advanced tool called a serger to create smooth, polished hems for the blankets. It's an instrument that requires precision -- mistakes can't be corrected.
“It's almost like a sewing machine, but instead of like being able to go back, it just cuts off the excess fabric as you go so it nice and clean," senior Aryanah Clum explained.
The students delivered their gifts on Dec. 15. Visiting Harmony House, a homeless shelter in Mansfield, was especially impactful.
“It makes you be grateful for what you have," senior Sydney Thorne said. "Sometimes you think, ‘Oh, I want more or I want this’ but then you realize that some people don't have the basic necessities that you need.”
Executive Director Kelly Blankenship said numerous groups have stopped by Harmony House in the last few weeks, bearing gifts for the clients who live there. Each adult was able to receive a gift during the facility's holiday party. Gifts will be distributed to the children living there on Christmas morning.
"It's difficult in the holidays when you don't have a stable place to live, especially for our families with kids who aren't waking up in their own homes," Blankenship said. "It's just been wonderful to see how generous our community is toward those who are going through a hard time.
Stephanie Johnson, the administrative assistant at Harmony House, said the children have been eyeballing the gifts since they arrived.
"The kids are looking at the tree every day," she said.
For many of the Clear Fork students, seeing the children's glee was the most rewarding part of the project.
“It was nice to see them be excited," Klum said. "It's like all that hard work paid off.”
Many of them said the experience inspired them to donate more in the future.
“There were people like coming in and out and dropping things off by this Christmas tree that they had up," junior Grace Snell said. "It just made me realize there's still like good in the world and I want to be part of that.”