When the Student Council at John Greenleaf Whittier School decided to focus their efforts locally this year, they started with Housing Forward. According to Leslie Weiss, one of the student council sponsors, any 4th or 5th grader at the Oak Park school who wanted to join the council was invited to participate. By late fall when they started meeting via Zoom, 40 students had signed up.
After deciding our agency would be the first benefactor of their community support, they reached out asking how they could be most helpful. They spoke with Enid Johnson, our Volunteer and Community Outreach Manager, who told them that travel-size toiletries were always useful. She also told them about a new need. Because our model has changed during the pandemic, clients are staying in individual accommodations through our new Interim Housing program in a hotel setting. Residents stay 24/7 and work with case managers to receive the services they need to clear away their barriers to housing. One of many new things to consider is that clients have access to coin-operated laundry and vending machines at the site. Staff can’t keep up with the need for quarters.
At one of their weekly meetings the council decided to sponsor a donation drive for personal hygiene products and quarters. The plan was to have students ask family and neighbors for items and then drop them off at the school on two school supply pick-up dates. Once Principal Patrick Robinson gave this enthusiastic approval, word spread quickly virtual classes, flyers, posters, and social media.
When the drop-off days arrived, Nurse Hilary Winkelhake and other staff supervised, and everyone was reminded to wear masks and be socially distanced. “All the kids were so excited to help, said Mrs. Weiss. “We tried to do everything as pandemic-safe as we could.” Donations were delivered on foot, by car and even on the back of bicycles. In all, dozens of bags full of toiletries and almost five hundred dollars in quarters were delivered to the Housing Forward offices in Maywood.
We thank the Whittier Student Council for finding a local need and taking action to fill it. We wonder who the next lucky recipient of their generosity will be!