Cedar Rapids fifth-graders 'pay it forward' with handmade blankets for people in need

Cleveland Elementary students make dozens of blankets for Waypoint's Madge Phillips Center

Fifth grade students grab blankets for a photo with representatives of Waypoint's Madge Phillips Center Shelter at Cleve
Fifth grade students grab blankets for a photo with representatives of Waypoint’s Madge Phillips Center Shelter at Cleveland Elementary School in Cedar Rapids on Friday, April 19, 2019. Students from two classes made and donated blankets to the shelter, which provides temporary housing for homeless women and families with children. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — When she learned her fifth-grade class would be making blankets to donate to a downtown shelter, 11-year-old Brianna Schrage was delighted.

“Oh my gosh,” she remembers thinking. “I didn’t know we were helping. I thought it was really cool.”

Brianna and her classmates at Cleveland Elementary in Cedar Rapids tied 26 fleece blankets cut by their teachers and donated them to Waypoint’s Madge Phillips Center on Friday.

“It’s just good that we’re giving to people who don’t have as much as we do,” Ava Sinnwell, 10, said. “They’ve given us so much here.”

Through the Realtor Foundation of Iowa’s Project Jack, teachers Sherrie Kopecky and Jamie Mnayer received $500 of funding for the project.

Waypoint staff picked up the donation and answered questions from students, telling them how needed soft blankets are at the shelter, which provides services to homeless people, survivors of domestic violence and children.

“That stuff tends to leave the shelter when our clients leave so they have a little bit of comfort with them,” said Brittany Appleton, Waypoint’s event and volunteer manager. “Bedding and blankets and things like that are a huge need for our clients.”


Fiscal and in-kind donations from young people, she added, seems to have become “a huge trend” benefiting nonprofits.

It’s something Kopecky, the teacher, said makes her proud.

“It’s good for the kids to see that no matter the background we come from, we can all give back in some way,” she said. “We want to try to promote that giving.”

Kopecky said she and her students talked about how the community already supports their school, including how Cleveland is one of many Cedar Rapids schools that provides lunch to all at no charge.

“Somebody is paying for that for us,” she said. “ ... It’s about paying it forward.”

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