LOUISVILLE, KY, Friday, November 1st, 2013—Thousands of homeless children are in for a treat thanks to the hard work of more than 300 Future Farmers of America students Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.
The only trick the students faced? Organizing 80,000 articles of clothing by order, into boxes, wrapping each palette tightly and loading them onto CSX intermodal containers in just two days. With the help of CSX, City Year, National Safe Place and Dignity U Wear volunteers, the mission was accomplished and the clothing will be distributed to more than 130 shelters throughout the country.
Laurie Jackson, president and CEO of National Safe Place, said 10,000 to 12,000 young people go to Safe Places for assistance each year. "Sometimes children come to us with only the clothes on their backs," Jackson said. "Some have worn the same thing for several days, even weeks. Through this project, we will be able to provide brand new clothes that will help boost their confidence and give them a sense of dignity so they can move forward."
Volunteer Sam Dandridge, 19, was one of those children. He came to the Safe Place Shelter House in Louisville after running away from a troubled home situation in California. He was given a place to stay, new clothes and food.
Today, Dandridge shares an apartment with a friend. He no longer relies on the shelter for clothes and food because he buys his own with money he earns working at Steak 'n Shake. He said without Safe Place, he thinks he'd still be on the streets, or worse. "I'm here to give back for the help that I've been given," Dandridge said. "And I'm very thankful for the students and adults who've teamed up to help the community whether they've been in the situation or not."
FFA students from throughout the country took time away from the National FFA Convention to volunteer during the two-day service event. "It is really important for our students to volunteer," said Elizabeth Tomac, agriscience instructor and adviser from the Jackson, Mich., Area Career Center. "This event adds purpose to our trip. It's a fun way for students to work with others and meet their community service requirements as FFA members."
Tomac said volunteering embodies the motto FFA stands by: "Learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live and living to serve." "Volunteering teaches our students life lessons," Tomac said. "We want them to be productive citizens and give back throughout their lives."