With little bags equipped with goodies, Hickory Hill Elementary students learned the importance of being kind.

This year, first graders in Ronda Oaks’ class took part in a kindness project where they put together blessing bags for less fortunate families in the area.

Oaks, who has wanted to do a kindness project all year, said after researching she stumbled upon the idea of blessing bags.

With the help of parents, each student put together a bag which resulted in 22 donations. Every bag had a candy cane, granola bar, beef jerky, shampoo, body wash, tissues, socks, toothpaste and a toothbrush.

“We tried to make sure there was something for their tummies, for warmth and for cleanliness,” Oaks said.

The bags also contained hand-written notes from students with messages that read inspiring words such as “You’re important.”

The bags were donated to the Tri-City Food Pantry, a local pantry that serves the communities of Papillion, La Vista and Ralston.

Before students filled the bags on Dec. 18, Oaks showed them a video on homelessness to help them understand that while these items might seem simple, they are blessings for families who can’t afford them.

“I don’t want it to be too serious or too sad for them, but I want them to know that they can make a difference in their community,” she said.

Immediately, she said, students were inspired to help.

“I think it opened their eyes to something they weren’t aware of,” Oaks said.

In addition to helping others, Oaks said she also hopes her students really grasp the concept of the holiday season.

“During this time of year, no matter how much we try to keep it away, it’s gimme gimme,” she said. “It’s just nice to take a step back and have them do this for someone else, someone they don’t even know.”

First grader Kaitlyn Young said taking part in this project made her feel happy.

“It makes the world a better place,” Young said on the importance of being kind.

In her note, she wrote “You are special,” to make whoever got her bag feel special, Young said.

“Everybody is special,” she said.

Oaks said she was happy to see her students give back to the community.

“I’m just really proud it came together like it did and the bags will get to people who need it,” she said.

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