Herman Street students helping the homeless
Sean Chase/Daily Observer Tricia Robinson's Grade 5/6 class at Herman Street Public School donated 50 blessing bags to the Grind Pembroke. In the photo are (front left to right) Mason Callahan, Payton Butler, Dylan Mckay, Kegan White, Owen McRae, Lilly Lackie, Katleen Velasquez, Aurora Tower, (back left to right) James Kilpatrick, Elijah Ikerenge, Owen Chapin, Keira McGuigan, Abby Shearstone, Scarlett Wall, Ava Brown, Tricia Robinson, Abby Langdon, Grind representative Garth Marquardt, Kyliene Mitchell, Aaron Snow, Jake Savage, Grind executive director Jerry Novack, Fionn Haggarty-LeBlanc and Jordyn Nephin.
PETAWAWA – Everyone can play a role in making their community a better, more inclusive place including the students from Herman Street Public School.
Since January, Tricia Robinson's Grade 5/6 class has been putting words into action developing and implementing a plan to create 50 Blessing Bags that will be distributed to folks who stay at the Grind Pembroke. The class project was a real, tangible way to help in a situation where many are in need, said Robinson.
“I was amazed at how indepth they went. They took complete ownership over this project,” said Robinson. “We see all kinds of things going on but how can we have an impact within our own community.”
Blessing Bags contain snacks, travel-size toiletries, band aids, socks, a bottle of water, grooming supplies, and other items that people who live on the street find useful. In the U.S. and parts of Canada, folks usually carry the bags in their car, so when they encounter a person who is experiencing homelessness, they can offer the bag to them. The idea came from 10-year-old student Owen McRae, who discovered the concept on the Internet and believed they needed to help those less fortunate in their community.
“They have to struggle to survive,” said Owen. “The basic thing we could do is make Blessing Bags.”
The subject came up in a social studies discussion. Once the class decided to tackle the issue, committees were formed where responsibilities for fundraising and physically making the bags were divided amongst the students. They hosted a used toy sale at the school raising $329. Student Lilly Lackie, 11, said the problem of homelessness is not invisible in Renfrew County.
“There have been people that we have known who were homeless and we decided to help them,” she said.
“Sometimes it's hard to get back on your feet and all you need is a helping hand,” added classmate Aurora Tower.
The bags will be distributed by volunteers at the Grind Refuge in downtown Pembroke. The facility, which opened two years ago, provides temporary, emergency accommodations of up to four days and some limited services for homeless men and women 18 years of age and older. Some clients suffer from mental illness, addictions and other challenges.
This isn't the end of the students' activism, predicted Robinson. She added the class is already coming up one, possibly two more initiatives.
“It doesn't just end here,” remarked Robinson. “It's created more questions for them.”