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Heidi Shaffer, Published April 02 2010

Moorhead students share the Easter spirit

What started as a first-grade project for Kindness Week at school has hatched into a yearly act of giving for Annie Nickell and her brother, John.

For the past six years, the Moorhead middle schoolers pack bags each Easter with treats and toiletries for Churches United for the Homeless in Moorhead.

“I worried the Easter Bunny wouldn’t come for the kids there. …

I wanted to do it for kids and the homeless people,” Annie said.

Annie, 11, and John, 13, saved their allowances for about a month to help pay for the items in the bags, which include candy, chips, toys, sunglasses, washcloths, shampoo and lotion.

“It’s a good cause, so we don’t really mind (giving up our allowance),” said Annie, a sixth-grader at Moorhead’s Horizon Middle School.

Shelter Director Bessie Askew said those staying at Churches United appreciate what Annie and John have done over the years. For some

at the shelter, it’s their first Easter basket.

“People take it for granted that (Easter baskets) are not a big deal, but to them it’s a big deal because they don’t feel like they’re disconnected so much,” Askew said.

The kids and their parents will drop off the bags today at the Moorhead shelter, and the bags will be distributed throughout the weekend.

Though the Nickells have grown since the project began, their mission remains the same: give those less fortunate a nice holiday.

“They’ve always had a certain sense of empathy for other people, but I think it’s just grown,” said their mother, Susie Nickell.

“We’re fortunate to have a house to live in, so it’s nice to be able to give back to those who aren’t as fortunate,” said John, a seventh-grader at Horizon.

When the Nickells started giving out the bags, they filled 55 to 60. Now they’re up to about 70, and a few more items fill the sacks, Susie Nickell said.

And Annie continues to brainstorm ideas to raise money for Churches United.

She recently painted a picture for her mom’s office. After she heard several compliments about the art, Annie plans to print posters and sell them to raise money for Churches United.

Though Annie doesn’t remember why she chose the shelter as her charity of choice, Susie Nickel said it’s probably because of how easily people can find themselves homeless.

“Part of it is that it could happen to anybody,” Susie Nickel said. “Somebody loses their job or somebody falls on hard times – it doesn’t make them bad people.”

Though the Nickells are not at the shelter when the bags are distributed, they say they know the people appreciate what they are sharing.

“People are very excited,” Askew said. “You would think it was Christmas again because of the fact that somebody thought of them to give them something.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 235-7311