Raising awareness for area’s homeless

Queen’s Grant High School students collecting clothes, toiletries for Urban Ministry Center

by Morgan Smith

Some local students are taking awareness for the area’s homeless to the next level, as they prepare to explore a night of homelessness themselves.

The Community Connections Club at Queen’s Grant High School in Mint Hill is known for its service in the community, particularly for its involvement in the Special Olympics Project UNIFY organization which promotes unity and friendships between special and regular education students. And this year the school partnered with the Urban Ministry Center in Uptown Charlotte for its Operation Sandwich program, where they made about 400 sandwiches for Charlotte’s homeless.

Now, the students want to go above and beyond and raise awareness for those without a place to call home in their community, and they need your help.

Saturday, June 2, the group is hosting an event they’re calling “Sleep-out for the Homeless,” where 10 students and three of their teachers will be found on the front lawn of the school, 10323 Idlewild Road, collecting donations such as men’s white socks, personal hygiene products and cleaning supplies for the center. The group will start collecting donations around 9 p.m., and will accept them until midnight, when they plan to move to a different location and spend the rest of the night with sleeping bags until 8 a.m. on June 3, where they hope to learn how to better relate to homelessness. The students are not allowed to bring cell phones, iPods or any other forms of technology.

“We got the idea from a fraternity project at (the University of North Carolina at Charlotte) that they do in the winter time,” junior Allison Smith, vice president of the club, said. “We wanted to have a project where people could bring supplies to us.”

Smith said the project is not only to spread awareness to the community, but the students hope to learn a few things along the way, as well.

“I definitely think it’s going to change our perspective on a lot of things,” she said. “I hope we can influence others as well on what it’s like,” adding that’s how the club hopes to have the greatest influence on the community.

Smith said the students wanted to participate in the project because so many people have become immune to homeless people or don’t pay attention to those in need.

“I don’t think many people really realize what it’s like. I mean you drive past homeless people on the street and not pay any attention to them,” she said. “Even on hot summer or cold winter nights – I just think if more people knew and paid attention, there would be a much greater impact.”

Melanie Moore, the club’s advisor, said the students have planned the event on their own. She said she’s proud of her students not only for this project, but also for everything they’ve done since the club began three years ago.

“I’ve always been so proud of them. They have a very philanthropic nature,” Moore said. “They always go out of their way to do something for the community.”

The group has done other service projects throughout the year such as Habitat for Humanity, their own food pantry and Teens for Jeans, a program through dosomething.org, that provides jeans locally to those in need. The group and their school collected almost 1,600 pairs of jeans earlier this semester.

As for the sleep out event, both Moore and Smith said they’re not really sure what the night will hold, although they hope the community will support the cause.

“I’m expecting the unexpected at this point because it’s our first time doing it – I’m excited to see how it all unfolds,” Moore said.

Not to mention she’s just happy to see her students back in the community once again before graduation on June 9, working to better understand the needs of the community.

“It’s important to just have an awareness of how other people’s lives are and the struggle people have,” Moore said. “I want them to know that not everybody is like them – they need to know every night they go to bed with a pillow and a warm blanket, there are other kids and people in this city – even in this school – that don’t have that.”

Want to help?
Students with the Community Connections Club at Queen’s Grant High School, 10323 Idlewild Road in Mint Hill, will collect men’s white socks, personal hygiene products and cleaning supplies for the Urban Ministries from 9 p.m. to midnight Saturday, June 2, at the school.

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