ST. GEORGE — At a ribbon-cutting ceremony held Monday afternoon, members of the Dixie Elks Lodge joined local residents and staff at Legacy Elementary School to officially celebrate the installation of a new “buddy bench.”
Sponsored by the Dixie Elks Lodge, the buddy bench is an international initiative centered on providing schools with a bench where lonely kids can sit and find friends. Children are taught what the bench represents, with the hope that when they see their peers in need they will extend an invitation of friendship.
“Anything that encourages kindness and compassion is great,” said Principal Teria Mortensen. “It’s a symbol to these kids. For them, it’s really hard to go up and say something, but it’s not so hard to just sit on the bench.”
School counselor Dave Misener said the buddy bench has already been a success in the month that it’s been installed. He shared anecdotes about children that had been away from school for some time that were able to find a friend and made mention of how proud he was of the children that invited kids on the bench to join them in play.
“It’s all about kindness and being a friend to others, and that’s a big teaching lesson,” Misener said. “If you’re lonely, you can sit down there, and kids are really great at coming and inviting people to be their friends. ”
The first buddy bench was installed in Washington County in 2019 at Sunset Elementary School. At that time, the national leader for the Elks Lodge organization was able to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony, said Dixie Elks Lodge Trustee Renee Danelon.
Two more benches were delivered to local schools, but the pandemic brought the initiative to a halt temporarily. The Utah Drug Awareness Committee supplied a $1,000 grant to the local elks lodge just before the pandemic set in, but relaxing restrictions have allowed the lodge to fund and oversee the installation of six more benches.
“Let’s be buddies, not bullies,” Danelon said. “We’re going to keep installing buddy benches at Washington County schools. They really work.”
The organization has also earmarked funds raised during their annual clay shoot to continue their buddy bench program.
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