Working at the Salvation Army Caring Place during the holiday season had a profound effect on a group of Leadership students at Thomas Haney Secondary, and with a little help from local businesses, they want to do more for the homeless people of Maple Ridge.
“It was kind of scary at first. We didn’t know what to expect,” said student Taylor Beare.
But she said all the seven girls in her group were moved by the people and their stories.
“Even though they’re not in the best situations, a lot of them stay positive, and they have things to say.”
She remembers a man of about 50, who was homeless but close to celebrating a full year of being drug-free. He was excited at seeing his family for the first time in many years over Christmas.
“It’s not always that they’ve made terrible choices – some of them have just had bad situations in their lives,” said Beare.
“All of us left with a desire to help them out. They’re just people.”
The group’s goal is to build at least 50 care packages and distribute them to street people. They will include toothbrushes, travel-size shampoo bottles, socks, gloves, granola bars and other simple but useful items.
“Things we think are just so ordinary are hard for them to get,” said Beare.
Their plan is to distribute the packages outside of the Caring Place on Feb. 27. Any of what they don’t hand out will be left with the Sally Ann staff. Then, they will do a second set of packages in the spring.
So far, the local business community has shown a willingness to help.
“Everyone we’ve talked to seems really supportive,” said Beare.
Their Leadership class is working on projects themed “Connect the Dots,” which is about creating connections among their peers, teachers and the community.
Their Leadership teacher, Grant Frend, who is also the principal at Thomas Haney, was impressed by the care package project.
“It’s cool to watch – there’s something powerful about them creating their own ideas,” said Frend.
“They aim high.”
He said there are valuable lessons in having students volunteer to help people living in the street.
“We’re all people and we all have feelings, and we’re more alike than we are different,” said Frend.
The Salvation Army has numerous schools, including elementary students, who come to the Caring Place to volunteer their time.
“It has a profound effect on kids who come in,” said Amelia Norrie, the public relations coordinator for the Caring Place. “It’s near for them to see a different side of the community.”
She said the Haney girls are striking the right note with their plan to distribute care packages.
“It’s a great project. Anything they can get in that respect – clean socks, new underwear, gently worn shoes, toiletries – all of that stuff goes a long way here, especially in the winter months, when it’s so wet.”
Beare said her group wants to make an impact.
“I’m hoping it will help those people, and show that people our age can make a difference.”