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Elementary students make blankets for vets

MANATEE — Victor Rojas might be 8 years old, but he knows what the holidays are really all about.

He and nearly two dozen classmates have spent the past few weeks in an art and quilts club at Daughtrey Elementary making 30 blankets for local veterans.

“We made blankets for the community to help them,” said Victor, a soft-spoken second-grader, who says this season is a time for giving.

The club, which meets every Monday and Friday after school, is one of several activities available through Daughtrey’s after-school 21st Century Community Learning Center.

“In it, we teach them methods that connect meaningful community service experiences,” said first-grade teacher Bernitha Washington, one of the club’s instructors.

The first- and second-grade students practiced on paper before making the bright fleece blankets. Using rulers and scissors, they developed measuring and cutting skills to create the no-sew blankets, said Daughtrey spokeswoman Cynthia Heidel.

Representatives from the Wal-Mart store on University Parkway, which donated the scissors, visited the school Monday to see the final products. So did some veterans from the Manasota Elks. Daughtrey staff member Jill Gallagher, a Manasota Elks member, picked up the blankets and will deliver them to the nursing home unit of the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System in St. Petersburg, Heidel said.

“Donations are vital to the livelihood of our patients and veterans, and we appreciate everything we receive,” said Derenda McCook, Bay Pines chief of voluntary service.

Daughtrey’s 21st Century Community Learning Center is one of many nationwide that provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The program helps students meet state and local student standards in core academic subjects, such as reading and math; offers students an array of enrichment activities that can complement their regular academic programs; and offers literacy and other educational services to the families of participating children.

Natalie Neysa Alund, legal affairs reporter, can be reached at 745-7095.