BELEN — A teacher at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Belen decided to “spark” a little kindness last year, which resulted in she and her class being able to help homeless veterans.

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Melanie Chavez, the middle school English language arts and eighth grade social studies teacher at St. Mary’s Catholic School, holds the ceremonial check presented to her and the school from the Jennifer Riordan “Sparkle” Fund.

Last year, Melanie Chavez, who has taught at St. Mary’s for 12 years, wanted to find a way to encourage kindness in her students. So she downloaded the Spark Kindness app from the Jennifer Riordan Foundation.

“I just logged in the good things students did without being asked,” Chavez said. “I didn’t really think too much about it.”

The students did gestures such as making get well cards for a teacher’s child, helped keep the classroom tidy and opened doors for one another.

All those little things added up because Chavez learned earlier this fall that she was a recipient of $1,000 from the Jennifer Riordan “Sparkle” Fund. The fund was set up through the foundation and Riordan’s husband, Michael, after she died suddenly in 2018.

The fund and foundation encourages people to “be kind, loving, caring and sharing.”

Chavez decided instead of using the money for the classroom, they would buy hygiene items for bags to give to the VA Hospital in Albuquerque.

“They have an outreach program to get the bags to homeless veterans and those in need,” Chavez said.

The bags contain a T-shirt, comb, socks, toothbrush and toothpaste and prayer card.

“Our veterans are so important so I decided to give it all back,” she said. “When we did this project last year, it was with the second graders and they have such big hearts. I’m teaching middle school this year, and they do too. They are all so kind and compassionate.”

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