Commonwealth Journal

January 26, 2013

Hopkins student ‘bags’ donations for humane society

By HEATHER TOMLINSON, CJ Staff Writer
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —  

A local elementary school student is garnering quite a bit of attention for reaching out to one local community organization through a “reusable” tote bag project. 
Hopkins Elementary School fourth-grader Josie Watkins, 9, has been making her home-made tote bags — made out of empty dog food, cat food and bird feed bags, among other materials — for around a year, with the help of her family. 
“It takes about 15 to 30 minutes,” said Josie, about how long it takes to complete a tote. 
The “green” idea behind the bags is a worthy cause in itself, but Josie isn’t stopping there. She’s also selling the bags for $5 to $20, depending on the size of the bag, and passing the proceeds along to a local non-profit organization.
And on Thursday, she was able to hand over $105 to Connie Rakestraw, with the Pulaski County Humane Society, as a result of her efforts.
“It just blows my mind to see someone so young want to participate like this,” said Rakestraw, who said the humane society seeks to educate young children about the importance of community work and volunteering with non-profits. “To have them participate at this age is just wonderful.”
The bags are a Watkins family activity. Josie, her father Steve Watkins, her mother Jenny Watkins, and her younger sister Lilly all pitch in to make the colorful bags — complete with patterned duct tape and practical shoulder straps. 
“I just started making a lot of them,” said Josie. 
Steve Watkins said the kitchen is usually “taken over” by tote supplies after dinner time. 
“It’s definitely a family affair,” said Steve.
Anyone who wishes to help out can donate empty animal food bags, the ones made with the heavy plastic material, to Hopkins School, or to the Humane Society. 
“It would be great if people were willing to donate bags they’ve used,” said Steve.
Steve said neighbors and friends, realizing what Josie and her family was doing, have even begun to drop donations off at their home.
“She (Josie) had four or five bags sold (at an art show) and people saw them and all of a sudden we started seeing (bags) on our porch,” said Steve.
Rakestraw, who bought a bag herself, said the project is so memorable because it’s multi-faceted.
“It’s the recycling aspect of it,” said Rakestraw. “They’re using something that would be garbage and they make something useful out of it.”
The bags are made with used material, and the proceeds are going toward an organization dedicated to the rescue and adoption of animals.
“Just for her to give so freely ...,” said Rakestraw. “It’s wonderful.”
Josie doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing down — and Steve said the Watkins family is behind her 100 percent.
“Animals are their (Josie and Lilly’s) passion, and they’re going to do something that revolves around their passion,” Steve said.
Those wishing to donate materials such as used food bags and duct tape can call the Humane Society at 451-2367 to arrange a drop-off, or they can drop the materials off at the Hopkins Elementary front office on certain days beginning this Thursday. Call the school at 678-8707 for more information on drop-off days.