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Lost in Centerville, found in the Philippines

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CENTERVILLE -- If you lose something at Centerville Junior High School, it gets found at a school in the Philippines.

These items don't go around the block to a Deseret Industries thrift store. They go around the world to a Christian school in the southern part of the Philippines.

Centerville Junior High English teacher Diana Shinn says the school packs up the nearly-new backpacks, shoes and other items left in the lost and found at the end of the year to ship out.

"The things we just always take for granted," she says. "The parents have been informed if you want your stuff, come get it now."

The unclaimed items are then donated to an elementary school in Davao City in the Philippines -- where things like hoodies are more than just fashion.

"The kids use these not to keep warm, because it's extremely hot where they live, but they pull the hood up over their head, they tighten up the drawstring and it acts as a malaria net," Shinn said.

The unofficial partnership with the school began three years ago. Since then, Shinn and others in the community -- including students and teachers -- have donated tons of supplies.

"They know that they can drop things off in my classroom," says Shinn.

The boxes go from the classroom to Shinn's living room, where she adds things of her own as well.

They are then shipped through an Asian grocery store in Centerville, which allows them to get the stuff farther inland to the school in Davao City.

The items are shipped in special boxes that are measured by space, not weight, so they're packed as tightly as possible.

The donated items are packed up along with books and food. Products like sugary cereal and cake mixes are some of the things families can't buy in the Philippines.

It takes about two months for the boxes to reach the Philippines.

Shinn says many times the things they send have turned out to be providential. For example, she says she put in school supplies she picked up at the dollar store. School officials told them they were so grateful to get colored markers and be able to color not just with red and blue for the first time.

"They haven't ever had all those other colors before," she says.

The Centerville P.E. teacher sent lost shoes, including a size 11. Shinn didn't think the size 11 would fit any of the children but sent them anyway. They fit the school's security guard, who was desperately in need of shoes.

Once they had exactly 100 Dum Dum suckers for another project, and they popped them into a box, too. The children got them on a day they were stranded at the school because of a flood.

"They had those suckers. That was a miracle. There was exactly one sucker for each child," says Shinn.

The Shinns have received notes and pictures from the children thanking them, and sometimes special requests from their families.

"She said lint rollers to clean off her shoulders, because it's another one of those things they just can't get," Shinn said.

Shinn recently retired from Centerville Junior High, but she says two other teachers have pledged to keep the effort going at the school.


Story compiled with contributions from Mary Richards and Anne Forester.


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