Students in the current freshman Tennessee Valley Early College class at Cleveland High School recently completed a service project to help the local homeless community. The project, dubbed …
Students in the current freshman Tennessee Valley Early College class at Cleveland High School recently completed a service project to help the local homeless community.
The project, dubbed "Project Cleanway," saw students cleaning up part of the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway and collecting clothing and items to fill "bags of hope" for the Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church Cold Weather Shelter.
"We recognize a lot of our homeless use the Greenway, and we really wanted to lift the spirits of those who travel along the Greenway," said CHS teacher Dustin Fromm. "The students are trying to bring hope to those facing tough times."
With the CHS campus' proximity to the Greenway, students decided they not only wanted to keep the area looking neat and clean; they wanted to do something for the homeless individuals themselves.
They came up with the idea of collecting toiletries, snacks, bottled water, socks and winter hats and gloves to create "bags of hope" to give to the homeless. Students also wrote letters of encouragement to the bags' eventual recipients and sorted warm-weather clothing donations.
To get the bags and clothing items to the people who need them the most, the class decided to partner with Wesley Memorial's Cold Weather Shelter. Volunteers at the shelter will distribute them to people staying there.
The Cold Weather Shelter opens its doors to the homeless when the weather is forecast to be at or below 30 degrees during the night. Amy Mott, administrative assistant and member of the shelter board at Wesley Memorial, said it has been open 18 nights so far this season.
"This is a ministry that is really reaching the local homeless in our community — as well as those from outside our community," Mott said. "We have seen a lot of transplants from places like Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. A lot of it has been because of the hurricanes and such we've had over the past year."
Students involved in the project to help the shelter described how they had worked together to plan what they were going to do, ask the school community sort the donations, and put the bags together.
During their planning, they received a visit from Mott, who taught the students about the shelter and how it allows the homeless to enjoy warm beds, showers and meals.
"It made us realize how much of a homeless population we have in the community and what all we take for granted, really," said CHS freshman Tori Price. "Most of us just don't think about things like not having a toothbrush."
CHS freshman Ariana Dolos pointed out that not everyone in the class would have automatically wanted to work together, but they were able rally around a common cause. She said this left her and her classmates feeling closer to each other and their community.
"It really opened up our eyes about what people need in the community," CHS freshman Emma Ratcliff added. "I think it got some of us thinking of how we can continue to help in the future."
The Tennessee Valley Early College is a program of Cleveland State Community College which allows students to earn college credits at an accelerated rate while still in high school. The goal is for each student to receive an associate's degree by the time he or she graduates with a high school diploma.
Students participating in this service project are part of the CSCC First Year Seminar course being taught on the CHS campus. "Project Cleanway" was part of a service-learning initiative embedded in the course.
Ramon Torres, senior pastor of Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, thanked the students for their efforts and said he was glad they were learning about the importance of community service.
"It is a great example of how easy it is to get involved — even at a young age," said Torres.
Wesley Memorial church leaders say the Cold Weather Shelter is always in need of help from the community, especially volunteers willing to help with registration, serve meals and stay overnight. Big needs also include socks and winter gloves for men and women.
For information on the shelter and whether it will be open on a given night, visit www.facebook.com/wesleyumccleveland or call the church at 423-472-9578.
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