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Hartselle High's Key Club prove that young people can be community heroes, too

By Staff
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
When heroes flock together, their generosity takes flight–just ask any of the numerous families and agencies across Hartselle and Morgan County who has benefited from the generosity of the Hartselle High School Key Club.
HHS teacher Leah Blackwood has sponsored the 172-member Key Club for freshman through seniors since 2002.
She said membership and interest in new projects has grown each year.
"This is a very unique group of kids," Blackwood explained. "They initiate their own systems for conducting these projects and then successfully motivate the school and the community to participate."
According to Blackwood, the Key Club collects donations and does voluntary work for the following projects and events annually: Holiday Can-a-thon, Holiday Hope Chest, Hartselle Kiwanis Pancake Day, Depot Days, Toys for Tots, Fuzzy Wuzzy Bear Campaign, holiday family adoption through Hartselle First United Methodist Church's Faith House, school supplies for The Caring Place and Hartselle Head Start, Spring Book Drive and tutoring at Hartselle elementary schools, FUMC Diaper Drive, Children's Miracle Network, UNICEF, Volunteers of America and Breast Cancer Awareness.
"They have excelled in every project," Blackwood noted. "They have proved again and again just how committed they are to helping their neighbors. Every year the club ups and surpasses their goals for each project from the previous year. It's truly amazing how devoted these kids are."
To date, Blackwood said the biggest project the Key Club has undertaken was the 2004 Holiday Can-a-thon, when the Key Club motivated HHS students to donate more than 21,000 canned and non-perishable food items for the Good Samaritan Ministry of FUMC's Faith House.
"I still can't believe it," Blackwood recalled. "This was by far the biggest project for the Key Club and the biggest return. The food they collected will feed 600 families right here in our local community. It's a big time eye opener for the students when they can see just how their efforts affect others, especially those as gracious as Joy Groover."
Groover, a volunteer with the Good Samaritan Ministry, said she cried happy tears when the students unloaded six truckloads of food for the nearly bare shelves at Faith House last December.
"It was such a blessing," Groover said.
"It's just hard to imagine that anyone would give that much at once. I know the kids worked hard to collect all of this food, and I also know their parents and Leah worked hard, too. If everybody worked as hard as these kids worked, a lot of people in this world wouldn't be hungry."
Groover said volunteers sorted, organized, shelved and built shelves for the donations, and now the Faith House is packed and ready to help families year-round.
"And they help us, too," Blackwood said. "Anytime we have a need or know of a need Good Sam can help with, all we have to do is ask.
"They are there for the community."
When Key Club members aren't working on group projects, Blackwood said they volunteer individually throughout the community 25 hours per semester with the Volunteer Center of Morgan County.
Volunteer Center Executive Director Mary K. Braddock said the students are so involved with their community because they have a fantastic teacher.
"When I think of Leah Blackwood, one word that comes to mind is motivator," Braddock said. "Young people want to help and be involved, but they need motivation. Leah teaches them to be leaders and teaches them why their efforts are so important to their community."
Braddock said she has yet to see the project Blackwood and the HHS Key Club couldn't meet or exceed the expectations of.
"I can't tell you how much work they are able to accomplish," Braddock explained. "Whatever the project, you just don't have to worry."
The Volunteer Center of Morgan County recently presented the HHS Key Club with a Service Learning Award for their participation in and outstanding contribution to the 2004 Can-a-thon.
For information on continuing community projects through the Hartselle High School Key Club, contact Blackwood at 773-5426.

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