Beyond the Books: kids and kindness combine to raise money, donate blankets

Parents and children work together to put blankets into sacks as part of their donation drive giveaway to Family Promise of Linn County.

On Christmas morning in 2014, four-year-old Annabelle Spangler's stocking was full, and the presents spilled out from under the tree.

As she unwrapped gift after gift, Annabelle looked at all of her new toys feeling elated, yet overwhelmed.

After all, she had accumulated quite the collection over the years, and she wasn't sure she'd have time to play with them all.

Suddenly, a simple solution arose, her mother recalls.

"She looked around the room and she said, 'I already have so many toys and I just got so many more toys and I feel sad because there are other kids who don't have any toys,'" said Annabelle's mother Heather.

Annabelle's solution -- share her toys.

She rallied some of the neighborhood kids, and a small group gave some of their toys to the less fortunate.

Little did Annabelle know it at the time, but her giving ways would spiral into a movement for kids just like her.

More than four years later, Annabelle is joined by more than a half dozen friends for their latest Kid-Powered Kindness project.

The cold clutches of winter prove no match for youthful determination, the youngsters partnering with the Hiawatha Public Library to coordinate a blanket drive.

Between the library and some in-school efforts, the group gathered 150 blankets for nonprofits like Family Promise of Linn County.

Those blankets will be distributed to families facing homelessness in the height of winter.

The kids also dug into their own pockets and piggy-banks, giving Family Promise a check for $136.27.

"We are gonna put this to good use," said Family Promise executive director John Derryberry, "but the story really is these young kids using their time to give back to their community."

This isn't the first time the group has given back, with a hand in everything from helping homeless pets to creating food pantries, even launching an official website.

Of their efforts on this particular project, fourth grade Kid-Powered Kindness participant Aleena Wittenburg said she's just happy "all this money and all these blankets are going to a good cause."

Coordinator Heather Spangler said the goal of the group is to simply empower kids to make the world a better place, with adults serving in a behind-the-scenes capacity to create connections based on the kids' ideas.

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