Erin McNamee

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When Western Illinois University social work major Erin McNamee took on Oprah's Pay It Forward Challenge, she wanted it to be a community effort.

After polling residents of Macomb, Illinois, about what they would do with the money, she finally connected with Mrs. Glaser's big-hearted fourth-grade class at Edison Elementary School. With help from residents of the Wesley Nursing Home, the class broke into small groups to brainstorm. They had lots of good ideas, but ultimately, there was a tie.

The class decided to donate to Project Santa to help needy families with Christmas gifts. The kids also wanted to contact the National Guard to help a local military family. "I thought, 'Oh my God, this is going be awesome. I can give somebody the opportunity to make someone's week, simplify someone's life and make someone happy,'" Erin says.
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