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Students keeping Wabash warm

BY CHELSEA BOULRISSE - cboulrisse@wabashplaindealer.com

The Wabash High School (WHS) Key Club is making sure no one gets the cold shoulder this winter season as the club executes its second annual “Apache Presence” program in downtown Wabash.

Last year, the club was looking to engage in a project to help club members’ fellow students when someone in administration saw a post about people hanging winter clothes around public areas for people to take to stay warm. The original idea was to hang the winter clothes on the trees around the school for students to take, but the club soon saw an opportunity to go beyond the school and into the community at large.

“We got to thinking we should do it around town,” WHS Assistant Principal Jeff Galley said. “Everybody goes downtown. It’s the perfect environment.”

After collecting hats, mittens, coats and scarves for their project, members of the Key Club have gone around the downtown area hanging bags that contain winter clothes on the trees that line the sidewalks. In the alleyway between Canal Street and Market Street, they hung up winter coats that were also up for grabs for anyone in need. Within days of the first distribution last year, most of the articles of clothing were gone, so the Key Club went out and hung up more clothes for the taking.

“It’s hard to measure the success (of last year),” Galley said. “But just the speed at which things disappeared tells us that there was a need there.”

Since last year’s distribution, the Key Club has been collecting donations for this year’s project. On Friday, students will canvass downtown once again with winter clothes.

“We always stress that we want our kids to be involved, we want our kids to be part of the community,” Galley said. “What better way to do that than to help the community out?”

Although it’s a student-led project, Apache Presence has caught the attention of Wabash Marketplace and City Hall, making it more than simply a school program but a community program.

“The thing that really excites me the most is the fact that our kids are not only doing something for the community, but with the community to make this a success,” Galley said. “The fact the businesses downtown want to be involved and Marketplace is allowing us to do this, now we have kids working in conjunction with the community, not just doing something for somebody else.”