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Barrington Times: Local students will deliver backpacks to the homeless

Hampden Meadows School community unites for service project


Mark Whittaker, a fifth grade teacher at Hampden Meadows School, has rallied students and their families to collect and fill backpacks for the less fortunate.

So far, they have filled 200 backpacks with personal hygiene items, sweatshirts, socks, bottled water, snacks, and other essentials.

On Thursday night at 6 p.m., a volunteer orientation and engagement will be held at Hampden Meadows School. More than 50 volunteers – parents and students – have signed up to distribute the backpacks this Sunday morning, April 8, at the Friendship Breakfast at Mathewson Street UMC in Providence.

“It’s been amazing to see the support roll in,” said Mr. Whittaker. “I’m so excited this is actually happening. I think it’s important that these kids get to see the end game in their volunteer and donation efforts. Hopefully, it will bring more awareness to the problem of homelessness, but more importantly I hope that people will just get to learn a little about each other and share some stories over a meal.”

The entire student body has participated in this community service project.

The HMS student council donated $500 during a whole school service learning assembly and pledged all the proceeds from their used book sale at the school as well.

Another $700 in donations was raised from students and friends to buy the backpacks. Each class signed up to bring in various items.

Scott Budnick, a friend of Mr. Whittaker and one of the founders of the breakfast, is leading the workshop on Thursday night to prepare the volunteers for what to expect on Sunday – he will offer some keys to communicating with homeless folks.

“Essentially, 40 of these volunteers will be sitting down to breakfast with people, just sharing a meal, and then if they are in need, our volunteers can present them with a backpack. The other 10 volunteers will be working in the kitchen to prepare and then serve breakfast along with some of the homeless volunteers there as well,” Mr. Whittaker said.

Every Sunday morning, anywhere from 250 to 350 homeless men and women, gather for a meal at the Friendship Breakfast. Volunteers from all over the state help to procure, prepare, and serve.

The giving season always peaks during the months of November and December, however, February and March can often be difficult for many to get through.

“Last year, we personally delivered 100 backpacks to many of these folks… only to realize that we were about 100 backpacks short. This year, we have an opportunity to have an impact on an entire population of homeless men, women, and children,” Mr. Whittaker said.

Courtesy of the Barrington Times

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