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By Al Lagattolla, alagattolla@shawmedia.com

SUGAR GROVE – When Kaneland High School junior Andy McFarlin decided to put together a coat drive to benefit Aurora-based Hesed House, he said he saw an opportunity to turn it into a cooperative project.

McFarlin last year was the president of Kaneland’s Gay Straight Alliance. He also has been involved in the Greater Fox River Chapter of Operation Snowball, a program that aims to prevent alcohol and drug use, as well as Kaneland’s PODA group, which stands for Prevention of Dangerous Actions. Those groups participated in the coat drive.

McFarlin also reached out to a Bible study group that included Kaneland students, as well as students at Kaneland Harter Middle School. The result was a successful coat drive. McFarlin said there were 434 items of clothing collected to help Hesed House, which helps shelter, feed and clothe homeless individuals.

Another student, Hannah Morris, and McFarlin were honored at Monday night’s Kaneland School District 302 Board meeting. Cheryl Krauspe, the school board president, said the students “truly represent what it means to live in the Knight way.”

McFarlin said while the Bible study group might not agree on all issues with those in the Gay Straight Alliance, those involved were able to rally around the need to come together and help clothe homeless people.

“I thought about how I could push the Kaneland community boundaries and stir up some emotion,” McFarlin said, adding that it was why he felt it was so important that the groups could work together to prove, “No, these groups do not hate each other.”

“Controversy is not something people like naturally… but it’s something I am interested in,” McFarlin said. He added that those in the Bible study group are “actually well-rounded, accepting people who are willing to help out someone, no matter what their background.”

As for the middle school students, McFarlin said they “had no problem taking part,” adding those at Harter made the drive a true success. He said those with the school’s student council “collected way more coats than anyone from the high school could have dreamed.”

McFarlin said he enjoyed his time as the president of the Gay Straight Alliance and might be up for trying to do it again.

“It’s not just about sexuality or gender identity,” he said. “It’s about making sure the community is a healthy place.”

Published on Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at 5:50 p.m. CST. Updated Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 12:00 a.m. CST
Al Lagattolla is the news editor of the Kane County Chronicle. You can contact him at alagattolla@shawmedia.com.

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