By Sue Bury, Charity Chat Correspondent

Did you see the paper chains in Broadway storefronts that went up around Thanksgiving? Those “Thankful Chains” linking our community were a project of the Red Lodge High School Interact Club.

Usually, this Rotary-affiliated student group is busy throughout the year, organizing a bike rodeo and summer safety day for elementary kids, face-painting at the Fun Run, sponsoring and decorating for the high school winter formal, and more.

With the coronavirus squelching all that, Interact Advisor Rue Freeman and club members have sought to build connections in this time of online education, social distancing, and general stress.

To engage all high school students, the Interact Club organized Thanksgiving relay races for prizes and an “I’m thankful for” writing project.

The whole high school student body pitched in to make nearly 2,000 feet of the “Thankful Chains” paper chains. More than 100 businesses and individuals received them, and those with storefronts displayed them prominently. Rue Freeman says, “We were blown away by the response.”

When businesses asked what more they could do, students suggested donations of a few dollars to cover the project expenses; businesses responded with substantial contributions of money and gift cards for food and goods. Each week in December, a scavenger hunt took place at the school with the gift cards as prizes, enabling students to take the gift cards right back into the community, for holiday shopping or their own enjoyment. The money raised is supporting school-spirit activities and will be used for the bike rodeo and other Interact events when they become possible.

The last week before the holiday break became “Holiday Spirit Week” at the school, with students wearing costumes and joining in special activities.

Rue Freeman credits RLHS Counselor Cindy Luoma and all the teachers and staff for their active support of the Interact Club’s efforts to bring people together and build morale. The new year will bring more initiatives to strengthen connections among students and the community — with an expanded and energized Interact Club, Rue hopes, as word of the club’s activities spreads.