Joining ‘Hands Across the Gorge’

Middle schools work together to fight hunger

It will be no ordinary field trip.

To relieve local hunger, middle school students from Hood River and Skamania counties will link up in “Hands Across the Gorge” on Oct. 24, spanning the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks.

If middle schoolers are a cliquish bunch, you wouldn’t know it from the quintet of Hood River Middle School girls who are working with students at three other schools on the four-school event as a benefit for local food banks.

“One person can make a difference, no matter their age. It’s just determination,” said Sierra Geddis, one of the eighth graders who have been planning the 450-student Hands Across the Gorge effort for nearly a year, after classroom discussions about the nagging problem of hunger in the Pacific Northwest.

The kids wanted to go beyond talk and do something about it.

But other schools needed to get involved, both to accomplish it without draining the classrooms of an entire school but, more specifically, to reflect the Gorge-wide problem of hungry families.

So the HRMS committee contacted Wy’east and Cascade Locks middle schools, and Wind River Middle School in Stevenson, Wash. Students at all four schools are now gathering donations in hopes of being among the representatives to stand on the Bridge of the Gods — rain or shine — in the cross-river campaign, and enjoy a barbecue afterwards.

“Students are motivated if they get to do something,” Sierra said. The honor goes to the top 50 money-raisers from each of the sixth, seventh and eighth grade classes at Wy’east and HRMS. Wind River and Cascade Locks, with somewhat smaller student populations, will send 100 and 50 students, respectively. The schools will need to hold drawings if more than 50 students from each class raise $50 or more; all students raising at least $50 will be rewarded with a commemorative t-shirt. All proceeds go to local food banks.

Hands Across the Gorge will happen from about 10:30 a.m. to noon. The Cascade Locks bridge was chosen because it has a pedestrian sidewalk. For safety purposes, law enforcement officers on both sides of the river will slow traffic on the bridge, and staff and parent volunteers will also be on hand.

“Hands Across the Gorge” dates to about a year ago as two groups of HRMS students in Jack Sprague’s “Making A Difference” class simultaneously brainstormed ways to communally combat hunger in Oregon, and to raise awareness that Oregon and Washington have the highest rates of hunger among all states. They had studied “Hands Across America,” an effort in 1986 to form a nationwide human chain to fight hunger.

The Hood River Middle School students learned of their mutual idea and joined forces. Katie McMasters is credited with first coming up with the idea, and giving it the localized name.

“I think it will help raise awareness,” Katie said, “and show that anyone can help. That one person can make a difference.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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