QUINCY -- St. Dominic eighth-grader Ethan Rose brought more than just papers and pencils to class last year.
He and the rest of the school also brought in plastic caps -- from water bottles, milk jugs, toothpaste tubes and other items -- to recycle into benches for veterans through 2x4s for Hope.
"We brought a lot," seventh-grader Joe Warning said.
Two days into the new school year, the students already are focusing on helping others, hearing from 2x4s for Hope Co-Founder Chris Lawrence on Friday, signing and decorating two-by-fours for the nonprofit's next tiny house for a veteran and renewing the recycling effort.
The project ties into the school's Bible verse for the year to "build each other up" and helps the students see "every little thing you do has a big impact on somebody else," fourth-grade teacher Katie O'Neil said.
"We lift each other up by helping others who need help," Ethan said. "Once they get back on their feet, they should help someone else too."
Adding brightly-colored designs and messages to a two-by-four offered another way to lift up others for students, who sported bright yellow plastic hard hats with the message "I work for God."
"It's something pretty easy for kids to get involved with," Lawrence said. "We want each kid to know that they too can help make a difference. We are changing people's lives one two-by-four at a time."
The organization has built two tiny homes in Quincy and one in Mount Sterling for homeless veterans and plans to build another home in Quincy on Veterans' Day weekend. They use 85 two-by-fours for each home, and the veterans "read these messages, blessings, scriptures and see the pictures," Lawrence said. "They know that they have a lot of love and support from our community."
Each tiny home also will get a bench, made from recycled plastic caps, and Lawrence said Quincy schools will be invited to participate in an upcoming cap sorting party to bag collected caps, which will be taken to Indiana and exchanged for benches.
O'Neal said collecting caps for recycling provides other important lessons for students.
"We're saving the planet and taking care of God's resources," O'Neal said. "It's also how do you use the resources you have to help somebody else, give them a hand up and make their lives better."