MOUNT VERNON — Students at Immaculate Conception Regional School spread some holiday cheer Friday by donating items to those in need.

As part of the Mount Vernon school’s annual service project, each grade of the K-8 school collected items such as toothbrushes, first aid kits and lip balm, then put them in bags to be distributed to those in need by Welcome Home Skagit.

“The reason we chose this project is because the student council wanted to make the rest of the school aware of the sheer amount of homeless people in our community,” said Anthony Melnyk, student council spirit member. “This time of year, we realize that they don’t have all that they need to stay warm and healthy. Our project would hopefully get them some of what they need.”

On Friday morning, the school’s student council brought about 100 bags of items and additional granola bars, hand warmers and coats to the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Mount Vernon.

“Even with the items we brought in, there is still a high number of homeless who still need help in our community,” Melnyk said. “We would love to see the Mount Vernon community come together to help provide additional support for local homeless.”

The students made a friendly competition out of the project with each grade creating paper chains that had a link for every donated item, Melnyk said.

They also had Welcome Home Skagit board member Curtis Steinhauer talk about homelessness and how he overcame it to be able to give back to his community.

The school hoped that by collecting items for a cause the students were acquainted with rather than money for a cause they knew little about would have a greater impact on them.

“We want them to be able to empathize,” Principal Gwen Rodrigues said.

It was the second year the students had worked with Welcome Home Skagit for their service project, she said.

Larry Paise with the organization said he hoped the students would continue to do so and that other schools would get involved, too.

“It’s a real inspiration,” he told the students.

— Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141,, Twitter: @Kera_SVH,

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