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NSJHS Builders Club focuses on connecting students to community, each other

The North Syracuse Junior High School Builders Club, which consists of more than 100 members, has been nominated for a Spirit of Caring Award by the United Way.

The North Syracuse Junior High School Builders Club, which consists of more than 100 members, has been nominated for a Spirit of Caring Award by the United Way.

— “We like to do things outside of the building as much as we’re in the building,” Leahey said. “We used to have money for buses, but now we do fundraisers for busing. When we take a bus to the Oncenter for Toys for Tots, it’s $175. So we have to raise money for buses. We sell poinsettias. We’re always looking for ways to raise money.”

Because the program isn’t budgeted, Leahey and Carr have had to change the way they run the club.

“A lot of things we used to do, we’re really struggling with because we don’t have money,” Leahey said. “When we first started doing this, we would have monthly trips because everything was there, but slowly, it’s all eroded and taken away. But the important thing is, the kids still want to do it, so we’ll continue to do it.”

In fact, the program remains as popular as ever. The club has more than 100 members at any given time.

“Part of it, I think, is because of budget cuts,” Carr said. “We had a lot of clubs cut. The other part — my ninth-graders this year, I overheard them saying, ‘You’ve got to join this club. We do a lot fun things.’”

And, as Leahey noted, kids from all walks of life take part in the club, and they’re all accepted without question.

“We’ve never had a problem with somebody making someone in a different group or clique feel uncomfortable,” Carr said. “They always are very kind. When we did the advertisement for the food drive, it was drastically different groups working on it. They did a video, and it was really nice to see kids that normally wouldn’t work together on anything working together on it.”

That community spirit is exactly what defines Builders Club, and it doesn’t go unrecognized by the public. Both Leahey and Carr have received numerous letters and emails from community members complimenting them on the kids’ efforts. Now, those efforts are being lauded by an even larger body: the United Way has nominated Builders Club for its Spirit of Caring Volunteer Service Award. The awards celebrate philanthropy in the community.

The Builders Club will present a short video describing its mission, along with the other nominees, at 5:30 Thursday, April 26, at the Palace Theater in Eastwood.

The nomination is just the feather in the cap of a club that might have collapsed due to lack of funds, if not for the drive of its two co-advisors and the desire of the kids to keep it going.

“The kids really get a lot out of it,” Carr said. “They just like being with each other. They can do this and feel like they belong to something.”

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