By Sarah Neubecker Special to the Star LEROY — On a day set aside to celebrate an American hero, Pine River students and community members became heroes themselves. Over 50 people gathered Monday in the Pine River High School/Middle School library to make dresses from pillowcases for girls in Haiti. The idea for the Martin Luther King Jr. day project came after Pine River junior Meredith Mattzela organized a similar project with her church and wanted to repeat the event on a larger scale. “I thought if the whole school could do it, I know (we) could do a lot,” Mattzela said. Volunteers came as early as 5:15 a.m. and worked at tables and sewing machines, where they cut, ironed, sewed and tied ribbons to make each dress, finishing about 40 dresses per hour. The district began collecting pillowcases at the end of October, and had more than 1,000 by the beginning of December. “We are taking a day off that normally would be leisure for students and staff and coming in and working in together for a cause,” Cosgrove said. Kelby Klassen, representative of Haiti Care Mission, an organization that began in 2008 and has shipped 250,000 dresses to Haiti, said it was exciting to see the community get involved to help girls in Haiti. Klassen takes frequent trips to Haiti, and said many children in Haiti walk the streets without any clothing. Each pillowcase dress means a lot. “It makes a big difference to them,” Klassen said. The pillowcases that were not sewn at the end of the day Monday were outsourced to local churches to finish. The service project was part of the MLK day of service at Pine River Schools after the school board voted to have no school on the holiday. This is the first year the district has voted to take the day off school, and students were encouraged to participate in some sort of service project. Students and staff agree that spending the holiday serving others was a great way to honor the sacrifices made by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The district plans to continue offering service opportunities on MLK day each year.