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Kindness campaign kicks off at Hillcrest Elementary

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Parents may see a change in the behavior of their Hillcrest Elementary School students this year.

Last Friday, Hillcrest students assembled 250 lunch bags for the Westside Emergency Men's Shelter as part of the school's Kindness Campaign.

The campaign kicked off at 9:15 a.m. in the school cafeteria as 450 students from third, fourth and fifth grade gathered to listen to Braeden Mannering, a 10-year-old who started a nonprofit organization called Brae's Brown Bags at the age of 8.

Braeden assembles brown bag lunches with food, water and brochures and distributes them to churches and homeless shelters. He has been traveling across the U.S., speaking at events to inspire others to help.

"Every month, we're going to do a different kindness-themed activity and Braeden's nonprofit fit in perfectly," said Mary Beth Capka, a second-grade teacher at Hillcrest who helped organize last week's event.

Lucy Lamb, 7, a student in Capka's class said the assembly taught her to, "do your best to be kind and respectful."

After the assembly, students lined up in the hallways and filled brown paper bags with bottled water, snack crackers, cookies and informational brochures.

Students in Capka's classroom were asked to write something that shows kindness and then share it with the class.

"Using manners shows kindness," said Logan Glynn, 7.

Capka responded with an enthusiastic, "Using manners shows kindness, absolutely."

"I hope they learn that it doesn't take much to show kindness to others," Capka said. "It's something they can do as a 7-year-old and something they can continue to do throughout their whole life."

While students were at lunch, the school's second grade teachers, who organized the effort, delivered the brown bags over to the shelter, on the Spring Grove State Hospital campus.

The shelter provides food, water, a safe place to stay and case management to homeless men.

The event was supported by the Hillcrest Parent Teacher Association (PTA), which raised $500 to purchase food and office supplies for the assembly and activities, said Jim Kitchel, president of the organization.

Each year, the PTA sponsors a campaign at the school that supports Baltimore County Public Schools curriculum, Kitchel said. Last year, it was an anti-bullying campaign, he said.

"We make sure it's curriculum appropriate — we hold cultural assemblies and those related to equity," Kitchel said.

Capka said she's already seen a difference in the behavior of her students.

"They're definitely more conscious of it," Capka said.

A second assembly was held at 2:30 p.m. Friday for fourth- and fifth-graders.

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