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Topeka High School senior organizes face mask drive

Published: Aug. 19, 2020 at 6:30 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Topeka High School Senior Kelm Lear has spent his summer as many on the verge of graduation do: thinking about his post-grad plans, figuring out the future of organizations he’s been involved with and spending time with family.

The pandemic has added one extra item to his checklist for the summer: planning how to keep his fellow students safe when they eventually return to the building.

Topeka Public Schools, which includes Topeka High, has a three phase re-opening plan and every student and staff member will be given two reusable face masks provided by the district.

Lear is the president of Topeka High’s Interact Club, which specializes in community service and spearheaded the club’s latest project to collect additional masks for every student.

“The idea came from the fact that the CDC released guidelines for reopening schools that stated students should wear masks when they return,” he said. “We figured that the district is going to be so busy with so many other things in terms of organizing how the school year is going to work that we thought ‘let’s try to help in anyway we can and we thought masks were a good way to do that.”

Lear and other club members have been collecting reusable and disposable face masks at Topeka High School every Wednesday since the last week of May.

Their original goal was to collect 2,000 face masks, which was surpassed last week.

The masks have been coming from members of the community, businesses and even loved ones out of state.

Lear said it’s important that face masks are accessible to all students.

"I think it's a difference that needs to be made in the community because everybody needs masks and students are going to lose them they're gonna forget them so it's important that they have them and don't get sent home to get a mask they can come to school and be safe."

The project has added purpose to the lives of donors.

Joe Miller has been battling Parkinson’s for the last two years and when he started making masks for his daughter who works at an area hospital, he found out that making masks was a good tactic for coping with his diagnosis.

"It keeps my brain active because I'm constantly doing math and then it enables me to try to learn different ways to control my tremors," he said.

Miller has since learned how to use a sewing machine and has made over 200 masks for Topeka High School.

“This whole thing helps me feel good and useful cause a lot of the thing with Parkinson’s is that you feel like you’re getting left behind but this has made me feel more useful and I know I’m helping a lot of people,” he said.

“I think the masks are important and I try to encourage them and by making them I feel like by making them I’m keeping the encouragement going on them.”

Lear said he is excited to eventually return to the halls of Topeka High knowing everyone is safe.

“It just makes me feel proud that our school was able to make school safer for us to return to given all the other things we’re going to have to do to make sure everyone stays safe I’m glad that we could help in anyway that we could.”

Lear is also Topeka High School’s Senior of the Month for September and said he wouldn’t be where he is without his fellow members of the Interact Club.

Lear and other members of the Interact Club will continue to collect reusable and disposable face masks at Topeka High School every Wednesday from 12 to 12:30 pm through September 2nd.

If you want to help but are unable to donate during that time, email the club’s sponsor Murray Moore at mmore1@tps501.com to figure out a way to donate your masks.

Copyright 2020 WIBW. All rights reserved.

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