On Tuesday, January 17th and Thursday, January 19th, students from Bodkin Elementary School in Pasadena went on a field trip that physically may have only taken them across the street from their school, but actually took them very far from the life they know. The students visited Our Lady of the Chesapeake, which for the week is home to thirty-four local homeless gentlemen.
Through an all volunteer effort, the Winter Relief program of the Arundel House of Hope has operated as a seasonal Emergency Temporary Shelter since 1992. Each week, different Anne Arundel County Churches provide a safe shelter for those experiencing homelessness throughout the coldest months of the year. The churches provide a place to sleep, services, meals, and spiritual guidance to the guests during their designated week.
Five years ago when the parish of Our Lady of the Chesapeake signed up to participate, Donna White, the hall manager, contacted Bodkin Elementary School to see if they would want to join in the parish’s relief efforts. Says White, “I said “We are doing something really cool here and I think it would be great if the students joined us.”
Without hesitation the school was on board. Shares Principal Charles Jansky, who joined the children on the trips this week, “Anytime we can open the eyes of our children to those less fortunate we try to help. The students love coming here and we are happy we can be a part of it.”
Initially White was just trying to build support from the community and thought the students could collect donations to help with meals. Their efforts have far surpassed her expectations. The school families do collect items like fruit, lunchmeat, bread and snacks, but instead of just delivering the donations to the church, they become a well organized production line, assembling it all together in the church hall. Says White, “The kindergarten and first grade students decorate lunch bags and placemats. The second and third graders write notes of encouragement for the men. The fourth and fifth graders actually make the lunch sandwiches, and wash the donated fruit. Once the initial prep work is done, the older students are paired with younger students and they pack the bags.”
The school is not the only member of the community who has joined the church’s efforts. The Pasadena Business Association donated $200 worth of $5 gift cards which are used as prizes in games for the men. An Extraordinaire Limousine owner Jack Raines and Absolute Underground owner David Richardson team together to donate limousine service to transport the men to showers twice during the week. Numerous other local businesses contribute when the church holds an annual Winter Relief fundraiser in November.
Watching the students work, their enthusiasm is evident. They cannot wait to jump in and help. Says Bodkin school counselor Jennifer Elsis, “The fact that our school supports this is an amazing gift to the students. Kindness is our Bodkin “value” for the month of January. This is a real application for that. It is not a contrived or simulated experience. It is authentic and real.”
For more information about the Arundel House of Hope, visit: http://arundelhoh.org/