Ecker Hill donation drive helps the homeless
Teacher: ‘Frankly, this is my favorite part of teaching’
Last December, Lindsey Jacobson, a teacher at Ecker Hill Middle School, was blown away by how hard her students worked to collect items to donate to the Homeless Youth Resource Center in Salt Lake City for the holidays.
This year, Jacobson and several other teachers — Cynthia Schindler, Don Crandall, Annie Wallace, Lori Drivdahl, Dennis Harrington and Sophie Moffat — decided to promote a similar effort this year, but she was skeptical it could match last year’s success. As it turned out, she was underestimating what a group of students can do when they get behind a cause.
More than 150 students joined in to provide the resource center with much-needed clothing items, activity books and writing utensils. A representative from the center visited the school Friday and was overwhelmed to see the amount of goods the students were donating, Jacobson said.
“Frankly, this is my favorite part of teaching,” she said. “I love teaching kindness and to be grateful and to do community service. It just makes me believe in so many things about being a teacher. The kids come and rise up to the occasion, then they go above and beyond.”
A new element of the project this year was gathering brand new pajama pants for the homeless youth to open on Christmas Day in what would likely be the only gift they’ll receive. Jacobsen’s goal was to raise 25 pairs, but the students brought in more than 100. Additionally, the students wrote encouraging notes that will be included with the pants.
Taylor Shetler, a student who participated in the donation drive, used her own money to buy pajama pants. She said it was money well spent.
“Homeless people deserve Christmas just as much as we do, if not more,” she said. “I can’t imagine Christmas without family and friends, but they’re living life without people they care about. Using my own money meant giving them a Christmas they deserved.”
Another student, Alexandra Katz, said the project is important because it honors the real meaning of the holidays — giving and joy.
“We are not just doing community service because it is Christmas –we are doing this project to help,” she said. “I think this project should be done every day.”
Jacobson, who believes schools should teach community service as a life skill, said the effort hasn’t ended. The goal is to continue giving to the resource center until school is out. When the holidays are over, the homeless youth will still need help. Making the students understand why has been an area of focus for Jacobson and the other teachers.
“These kids are really down and out,” she said. “There are other circumstances besides not having a job and being addicted to drugs that make people homeless. For these teens, there are reasons they choose to live on the streets instead of at home.”
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