Life

Filling backpacks for the homeless

By Miriam King, Bradford Times

Mrs. Tramontozzi's Grade 7 Class at Fieldcrest Elementary, with backpacks for the Homeless, outside their portable in Bradford, Ont. on Wednesday October 18, 2017. Miriam King/Bradford Times/Postmedia Network

Mrs. Tramontozzi's Grade 7 Class at Fieldcrest Elementary, with backpacks for the Homeless, outside their portable in Bradford, Ont. on Wednesday October 18, 2017. Miriam King/Bradford Times/Postmedia Network

Jennifer Tramontozzi's Grade 7 Class at Fieldcrest Elementary School has been involved in a number of fundraisers at the school,  including the Terry Fox Run, and the ongoing food drive for the Helping Hand Food Bank.

This fall,  they've launched a social justice project of their own. Inspired by a video on  homeless people, the students have decided to fill backpacks with personal items and gifts, for homeless men, women and children – even pets.

“We saw the experience, and decided to help them,” explained a student.

The Grade 7s have been canvassing their community and going door-to-door, collecting hygiene items like shampoo, toothpaste and deodorant, as well as snacks, underwear, hats and mitts, gift cards for restaurants, and other items – including $3000 worth of passes, donated by the YMCA.

Any  money they have received  as a donation has been used to buy the backpacks and other necessities.

So far, the students have filled 150 of the backpacks. Their goal?  They hope to fill 300 backpacks by December, to be distributed to My Sister's Place shelter in Alliston, Blue Door Shelters in York Region, and Fred Victor Bethlehem Shelter in Toronto –  the only homeless shelter that also allows pets.

“It has turned out to be quite a huge project,” says Tramontozzi.

The kids have not only collected the donations, they have set up a GoFundMe page, a facebook page, and they have been writing letters – letters requesting support, letters thanking donors for their generosity, and “caring letters” to the homeless, to be included in each pack.

What was the hardest part of the project?

“To call places and convince them to donate,” said a student. There were a lot of hang-ups when they called, “because we're kids.” It was also tough going door-to-door. People often wanted to donate food items – not suitable for the backpack project, but perfect to add to the school's food drive.

The Grade 7s are hoping that the community will continue to help them reach their goal. Donations can be dropped off at The Car Guy, 131 Holland St. West, or see Grade 7... Helping the homeless... "The backpack project" on facebook.com.