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Helping the homeless: Care packages

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We get breakfast, lunch, dinner, and as many snacks as we desire. We have water, electricity, and the luxuries of our generation. With the extravagances we have grown up with since a young age, it is common to not even think of a lifestyle without them. The holiday season is a time of happiness and love for those who celebrate, and it’s easy to forget about those who don’t share the same opportunities.

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Care package contents

Inspired by giving a woman some food on Thanksgiving Day, I decided I wanted to help more people this holiday season by making and handing out some care packages. My friends Morgan Steinmann (12), Emma Keene (11), and Valerie Duran (11) asked to help in this project as well. Each of them were more than happy to be included in the process of making and distributing the care packages. Each of us donated money and old clothing that we no longer wear to build the packages. As a whole, we discussed and acknowledged how grateful we are for all the opportunities we have on a day to day basis that we normally wouldn’t think twice about.

“I wanted to help in this because this is the season of giving back”, Valerie Duran explained, “We all have so much. I just wanted to helpthose who aren’t as lucky as I am.”

Before handing out the care packages, I was able to sit down with Mrs. Carrie Walczynski. Mrs. Walczynski, beloved teacher here at Serrano, has helped and served in the less fortunate community since she was a child. Walczynski became active in homeless shelters and soup kitchens 8 years ago when she “needed service hours for her sociology class”. Walczynski explained that about a third of homelessness is due to mental illness, a third is due to addiction, and a third is average people.

When the economy crashed years ago, homelessness expanded. Foreclosure rates were very high leaving many innocent victims behind with nowhere to go. In the High Desert, much of the homelessness comes from those affected by mental illness and addiction, the recession, and released convicts from the Adelanto Detention Center.

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Sharing care packages

According to End Homelessness, as of one year ago, there were 578,424 homeless people living in America each night. 9% of this number is war veterans, left homeless due to war injuries and disabilities. Families also take up a major part in homelessness in America. When crisis strikes in a family, the finances that the family makes can deteriorate quickly, leaving the family with few to no options or opportunities to continue the life they were living. Most families are not homeless for very long as government aid programs help to assist in basic living necessities.(1)

With only one shelter in the High Desert, High Desert Homeless Services, located in Victorville, only about 70 people are protected each day. Most of those in the shelter are women and children, as they all have to be screened and tested before admission.

Currently Mrs. Walczynski is the supervisor of a project organized by Ben Gutierrez. The project is based on the donations of shoes and clothes that will be taken to a part of Mexico called “The Dump”. Gutierrez’s project is also taking place at Victor Valley College as well as Serrano High School.

The care packages we created were filled with items we all agreed might make life a little easier for those who receive them. We bought items like canned meats, soups, non perishable fruits, crackers, toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorants, napkins, toothpicks, lotions, soaps, hand sanitizers, water bottles, and more. Shirts, jackets, and scarves were put into each bag as well.  Dog food was provided for the famished dogs seen around town too.

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Creating care packages.

We spent a night putting the bags together, making a total of 16 care packages and 16 “Happy Holidays” cards including words of motivation. “I wish we could make hundreds to give out”, Emma Keene exclaimed, “It feels good to help others.”

Driving through Victorville, we spotted a middle aged man walking on the streets. We stopped, walked over to him and handed him a care package. “Happy holidays!” we told the man. With much emotion in his eyes he thanked us, “God bless” he said.

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A man accepts a care package with gratitude.

As we walked back to my car, we turned to look back at the man. There he was, eating one of the packs of crackers that was in the care package. The smile on his face beamed from ear to ear. We admired the man for his gratitude on behalf of the bag- it was the happiness that radiated from him after we gave him the package that flooded us all with chills.

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Meeting new people

One woman, named Samantha, was holding a sign on a corner reading “looking for a blessing”. As we handed her the bag, she broke down in tears, explaining to us how much it meant to her that we reached out. “It’s hard”, Samantha told us with a tear rolling down her cheek, “I won’t be seeing my daughter this Christmas. Thank you so much, it means so much.”

Giving to those in need was truly a magnificent feeling. When one thing can mean so little to one person, its very eye opening to see how much the same thing can mean to another. After doing this project, Emma, Morgan, Valerie, and I all felt increased gratitude towards all the things we are lucky enough to have.

Just remember, while you’re relaxing next to a warm fire with the company of your family after a well celebrated holiday of receiving gifts, there is someone the same age as you are starving on the cold, dark streets all alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others. You could brighten someone’s day, or even change the course of someone’s life.

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Share a little care!

  1. http://www.Endhomelessness.org/pages/snapshot_of_homelessnes
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The student news site of Serrano High School
Helping the homeless: Care packages