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Nisky student gathers sleeping bags for homeless

While some people might have hoped for the hottest new toy or latest gadget this holiday season, some people are just hoping stay warm through the cold winter nights.

So Iroquois Middle School eighth-grader Valerie Brooks led an effort to collect sleeping bags from students and faculty members at her school in Niskayuna. On Christmas Eve, she dropped off the 10 donated items with her mother, Helen, to the Salvation Army in Schenectady.

Through a volunteer program at the school, Brooks spent Community Day at the local Salvation Army. Locations are selected for the day by school officials and students get to choose where they want to spend their time. Brooks liked the Salvation Army so much that she continued to volunteer there once a month since September.

I learned to be grateful for what you have because not everyone has it, she said. "Not everyone has a home, not everyone has a nice room, not everyone has a sleeping bag."

Helen Brooks went with her daughter to the Salvation Army, and she said when Social Services Director Mary Rainey thanked the students for volunteering, she also discussed what the Salvation Army provides to the needy. When Helen asked Rainey what she needed, the response was sleeping bags.

"She said she could only give them blankets and that wasn't really effective," Helen said.

Valerie said she wanted to embrace the Christmas spirit and help out those in need.

"That is what Christmas is about helping people out and giving back," she said. "You can see how grateful people are for just the little things like sleeping bags."

Valerie said Rainey talked about how homeless people have only coats and nothing else on which to sleep. Rainey even told a story about an old homeless man who was sleeping under a bridge and someone stole his sleeping bag.

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