If you're a student at Heritage Elementary and need someone to play with at recess, or someone to talk to, all you need to do is have a seat.

A new installation at the school, the Buddy Bench, is designed to serve as a message to other students that one of their classmates is in need of a friend. The bench is part of an initiative by the American Legion to encourage recycling and combat bullying by encouraging kids to be friendly instead.

“The purpose of the Buddy Bench is to recognize kids who need a friend... (or) someone to talk to,” explained post 342 public relations officer Whitney Dallaire.

“There's a statewide push (by the American Legion) to combat bullying,” she continued. “But we like to push it further. For instance, if your new in school, you can make new friends.”

Heritage Elementary Principal J.C. Perkins said the school was committed to making sure students in each classroom understood the purpose of the bench.

Post 342, out of Willard, worked with Girl Scouts at the school to collect plastic for the bench. The three scouts collected over 100 pounds of plastic – mostly from bottle caps – to have the bench built, earning their Bronze Merit Award in the process.

Dallaire explained that only certain types of plastic can be recycled into the black and gray benches, and bottle caps are the most readily available source of that plastic.

Now that Willard has a bench, the school will “pay it forward” by collecting caps in their library and classrooms to help build a bench for another school, which is another aspect of the program that teaches students the importance of civics and community.

Dallaire said the next school the scouts and legion will focus on is Fallsburg Elementary in neighboring Lawrence County, which is the next closest school to Post 342.

“The game plan is for the girls to raise enough money and plastic (through the donations at Heritage) to have that bench built,” Dallaire said.

The three scouts responsible for helping bring the bench into the school include Dallaire's daughter, Carmelita Dallaire, along with Addaline Flaugher, and Lacey Barber. The names of the three scouts are inscribed upon a plaque that adorns the back of the bench. Dallaire and Barber are part of Troop 5319 and Flaugher is from Troop 7225.

Contact the writer at jwells@journal-times.com.

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