Looking Forward and Giving Back

Middle School Students Hold Comfort Kit Donation Drive

By Shelby Hockaday, AmeriCorps member serving the American Red Cross NW Region

Hockaday

When looking for motivated young members who are eager to give back to our community, they aren’t hard to find at Washington Middle school. When Kirsten Hoover, Leadership teacher for grades 6-8, first reached out to us, her middle school class was interested in starting a coin drive to collect donations for the American Red Cross. Once the details were discussed, we discovered that a coin drive presented logistical challenges. It was suggested that the class start a donation drive for items to build comfort kits, and the students were all on board.

Comfort kits are an important part of disaster assistance at the Red Cross. Filled with small toiletry items, they provide disaster victims with not only the essentials, but also a sense of comfort and humanity. The class was excited by the idea, and decided to host a donation drive at their school for February 22 to March 4 to collect items to build comfort kits. With labeled Red Cross collection boxes in the school’s front office, the class was quickly making progress.

As it turned out, Hoover was also interested in having her class learn about disaster preparedness, so I scheduled our Survivor Scenarios youth program. Survivor Scenarios is an interactive, group-based way to learn about disaster scenarios, including earthquakes, fires and volcanic eruptions. Students are given a scenario and challenged to creatively present how they would survive in their given scenario. I was excited to teach the leadership students who were so dedicated to contribute to an important project for the Red Cross. We were at the halfway point of the comfort kit drive the day of the Survivor Scenarios presentation, so I was able to express the value of comfort kits to disaster victims.

When the donation drive ended, I delivered special “American Red Cross” bags to assemble the comfort kits at the school. Over the next few days, the Leadership students built 47 comfort kits out of the supplies they collected. Items included wool socks, hand sanitizer, shampoo, lotion, toothbrushes and toothpaste, etc. After full kits were put together, we took a box of leftover miscellaneous items and combined them with other comfort kit supplies in our Tacoma office. We are so thankful to the leadership students at Washington Middle School who led this effort for the Red Cross. I know our disaster clients will be grateful too!

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