Ecker Hill students offer the homeless a little help for the holidays | ParkRecord.com

Ecker Hill students offer the homeless a little help for the holidays

Every year, it seemed, some students at Ecker Hill Middle School failed to complete their assigned community service projects because they didn’t know how to get started or they didn’t have access to rides or any number of other excuses.

So Lindsey Jacobson, a world language teacher, decided this year would be different for the students in her advisory class. This year, they would do their project together and help the Homeless Youth Resource Center in Salt Lake City.

The result has been more than Jacobson anticipated. The students quickly committed themselves to the cause, raising about $800 by selling bracelets, gathering loads of used clothing and making scarves that will help homeless people stay warm during the holidays.

"We want to show these kids what it really means to volunteer," Jacobson said. "Instead of going to walk the neighbor’s dog six times in a year, this is what it really means to commit to something and make a difference. I want them to remember this for the rest of their lives. I want them to know what it means and know what it feels like to impact people."

Jacobson was set to take the scarves to Pioneer Park in Salt Lake on Wednesday and hang them from trees for homeless people to take. The clothing will be donated next month, as will the money, which has a special purpose.

"That will help with actually paying a caseworker, which is actually really cool for us," Jacobson said. "So it’s not just jackets and food, but the caseworker is able to help people with finding jobs, help with counseling and anything else they need. That was kind of a surprise for us. We didn’t think our money would make that big of a difference."

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Showing the students what homelessness really looks like has been crucial to the cause. Jacobson said that many often assume that homeless people are drug addicts or are bad people. But the reality is many good people end up homeless because of bad circumstances.

That’s a message that really hit home for Kayla Peay, one of Jacobson’s students.

"We’ve learned that they’re not just bad people," she said. "Some people really actually need help. We watched a video, and it was like, ‘Can you come sit with me? I just need a friend.’ That means a lot."

Madison Kaiserman is another student who has been enthusiastic about the project. She said it’s hard to know people are struggling, and it’s been rewarding to try to make a difference in people’s lives.

"Through this whole experience, we’ve learned what caring is and how to care for people, even when they’re going through hard times," she said. "We’ve gone deeper and deeper in this project, and it’s really made a difference in my life because I feel like I’m making people happy. That’s a good feeling."