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Third-graders at Sandymount Elementary School got into the spirit of Valentine's Day on Friday, walking excitedly through the hall delivering thousands of pencilgram valentines to teachers, students and staff, in an act of kindness that will eventually make its way to less fortunate members of their community.

The activity, which third-grade teacher Rachel Anglemyer calls the "Pencilgram Project," began in 2011, as a tribute to her mother, Rea Lyburn, who passed away in 2008. Each year, students in her third-grade homeroom class collect orders for $1 valentines, and students are tasked with taping thoughtful notes to a pencil, Anglemyer said.

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Students and teachers passed out valentines Friday, and pencilgrams were delivered by students. This year, the project raised about $1,000 for a local charity, which Anglemyer will surprise with a donation.

Bella Caraway, 9, surprised vocal music teacher Joann Benson with a pencilgram that said, "Happy Valentine's Day!"

"It's really sweet and it gives the students a chance to do something that's greater than themselves," said Benson, who keeps her pencilgram valentine notes in her classroom. "It's become something that everyone looks forward to."

It made Bella feel good to pass out the thoughtful notes, and she said, "it made me feel good that it's going to a good charity."

Anglemyer said the death of her mother, with whom she was very close, inspired her to start the project. Her mother was always kind and generous, often volunteering to help community members in need, she said.

It was her death that caused Anglemyer to reassess her life, she said.

"I kind of just stopped and looked at my life … and kind of just thought if I was going to die tomorrow have I done what I wanted to do with my life?" she said.

Members of her family always place an emphasis on giving back to the community, Anglemyer said, and she decided she wanted to do more. Although Anglemyer grew up in Westminster, she never realized people struggled with homelessness until she learned about the existence of the Carroll County Cold Weather Shelter, which serves as an overnight shelter for homeless people from Nov. 15 through the morning of April 1 each year.

She began to volunteer at the Cold Weather Shelter, the Domestic Safe Haven, and the Women and Children's Shelter to help people who are less fortunate, she said, but quickly realized that working full-time and having young children didn't leave her with enough spare time to volunteer. So, she decided to raise money for charity organizations at school.

"I'm big into positivity and things like that. I said, 'What can we do to help the community but also two-fold'... so the pencilgram idea came up," she said.

Over the years, the project has raised more than $4,500 for local charities, according to Anglemyer.

When Anglemyer's mother died, she said she realized the value of telling people how important they are. Now she is sharing that wisdom with her students, who learn the benefits of showing their appreciation of others through the project, she said.

"The kids get them to send them to the teachers and they get to send them to the staff and they let their friends and their teachers and everybody know how important they are to them," she said. "So at this time of year when I do the Pencilgram Project I always think of my mom, and I say, 'This is for you, Mom, because you were always such a kind and generous person.'"

Anglemyer said the project teaches students the importance of showing gratitude and giving back to their community.

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"I love the Sandymount community — it's like my home away from home, so to be able to extend that much love into the community … it's like paying them back for being such a good community," Anglemyer said.

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