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VALLEY FOCUS | Van Nuys

Students Donate Time to Make Fabric Toys

January 24, 1998|TOM BECKER

Students at Birmingham High School are giving back to their community using tools as simple as a needle and thread.

For the past few months, almost 200 students at the school have been measuring and cutting fabric, lining up edges and sewing seams to help put a smile on a child's face.

This week, they will got a step closer to producing those smiles when they donate the fruits of the labor--150 fabric dogs--to the Van Nuys Police Domestic Abuse Response Team to later be given to children in need of a good toy to hug.

"I'm so proud of my students," said Shirley Mark, a home economics teacher at the school. "They've worked so hard to give back to their community."

Mark started the donation program last year as a way to get her students more involved in the community. She said she chose the DART program because domestic abuse is something that many of her students can relate to.

"It seems like everyone has experienced it first-hand or knows someone or just heard stories through the news," Mark said.

The DART team provides resources and services to victims of domestic violence and their families. The team responds after officers have contacted them, offering on-site counseling.

The DART team also created a care-package voucher program in which local businesses and residents can purchase vouchers to help victims and their families by paying for food, motel rooms, taxi rides and a toy to brighten a child's day.

That's where the Birmingham students come in. Mark deployed every student in each of her five classes to work on the project. The students' passion and commitment were evident from the start, she said.

"I think teenagers often get shortchanged," Mark said. "These students worked harder than most people would. They really relished the opportunity to help others."

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