Trinity Christian Academy’s sixth-grade classroom is always open to mission work in any way possible. Class homeroom teacher Melissa Wickersham is always looking for opportunities to not only help the community, but also encourage her students to do the same.
Seizing the opportunity to do both, the class put together “hygiene bags for the homeless,” as Wickersham’s sixth-graders call them. The bags contain a variety of hygiene products including shampoo, conditioner, lotion, body wash, shave gel, razors, etc. They also were able to put together “kiddie bags,” in which each recipient receives their own box of crayons.
“The way it got started is, when I began working for Trinity, we would take these long trips,” Wickersham said. “I realized that we had all of these hygiene products at the hotel that we weren’t using. When we were leaving, I saw it as an opportunity to take the stuff that we’ve paid for and use it in another way for an outreach.”
After the bags were complete, the sixth-graders brought them to New Hope Center of Paris, a nonprofit offering outreach and services to the area’s homeless. New Hope received the bags Wednesday from students Annabel Poore, Kylie Barber, Avery Spencer, Grace Maddox, Selah Jenkins, Bethany Loewen, Landon Dyck, Joshua McDowra and Dakota Berquist.
Tanteta Scott, executive director of New Hope Center, offered the students a tour. Students heard from April Miller, New Hope’s executive assistant, about the services offered and why they are important. Students met with the center’s residents, which gave them an opportunity to see who they were helping.
“Whenever we have a client come in, we always have a welcome packet that has their sheets, pillows, and the bags that the kids put together for us,” Miller said. “Even if a client comes in and we are unable to assist and house them here, we can still give them a hygiene bag so that whenever they do go wherever they are going, they will have the necessities.”
The hygiene bags donated during the last two years are just the latest in a line of donations from the class. At the beginning of the year, students donated to The Salvation Army and Christians in Action as well as New Hope.
Wickersham said the tour, talk and meeting with residents was an eye-opener for her students, who expected to find homeless people who were on drugs, alcohol or in abusive relationships. During their visit, the teacher said, students learned anyone could become homeless and many local residents are one paycheck away from losing their home.
“It was cool to see that there are different environments and that not everyone has as much as we do. It made me feel very blessed,” Poore said.
Classmate Dyck agreed, saying, “It was very fun to go to New Hope and see everybody. I can be so thankful that I have everything like food, water and electricity. When we went there and gave them the hygiene bags, they were just so thankful.”
“Going to New Hope made me glad that we have organizations like this for people who don’t have much. It made me realize how blessed we are and how much God has given us,” Berquist said.
Wickersham encourages others to collect unused hygiene products from their travels to give them to a greater cause.