AKRON, OH—In October 2016, Towpath Trail High School students pledged to fill 75 “Hope Totes” with full-size personal care items for a homeless shelter to distribute this Thanksgiving.
The Haven of Rest is a homeless shelter that is located just a few blocks from Towpath Trail High School at which Towpath students have volunteered for over four and a half years. The Haven of Rest’s emergency services are available free of charge to all in need. They provide hot meals, overnight shelter, clothing, showers, laundry and other vital services. During the past year, 67,244 nights of safe, clean lodging were provided to men, women and children who would otherwise have spent the night on the street.
The Towpath Trail students wanted to do even more for The Haven of Rest during the holiday season as a way to thank them for their support and to assist them in helping the homeless in our very own city.
One of their large scale initiatives is the Hope Totes Program. Each holiday season, The Haven of Rest fills tote bags with full-size personal care items such as soap, toothbrushes, and shampoo to distribute to everyone who comes to the Haven for a Thanksgiving and/or Christmas meal. Towpath Trail High School and its students pledged to fill 75 Hope Totes for the Haven of Rest to distribute this Thanksgiving.
Students made a list of local businesses to call and ask for a monetary donation. Many of the businesses were willing to help, but they required a letter explaining the purpose of the project to be delivered in person before they could help. Our English teachers assisted students in crafting a well written letter explaining the project. Students then went out into the community with staff members to deliver the letters in person. Three local Acme Fresh Markets donated gift cards and The Merchant, a local restaurant, donated a $50 check to our cause.
Mrs. Fraser created a GoFundMe page for the school project, and we shared it on social media. Many of our students shared the page as well, and as a result, we were able to raise another $185. We even had two former graduates donate money to our project.
Many of our own students do not have access to spare funds to donate to charity. We wanted to give them the opportunity to give in a way that wouldn’t place a burden on them. We allowed students to donate their Towpath Dollars—earned by completing credits and for other outstanding work—to the cause. For every Towpath Dollar they donated, Towpath Trail High donated two real dollars. Students were extremely generous in donating their Towpath Dollars, and in just one week, we collected $113. As a result, the school contributed $226 toward the project.
With the funds our students collected, they were able to purchase more than 70 deodorants, 40 shampoos and conditioners (each), 140 razors, 140 combs, 50 lotions, 60 bars of soap, 70 tubes of toothpaste, and 70 toothbrushes, which were sorted into each of the Hope Totes. Students in our visual arts program also drew pictures with inspirational quotes to be added to the Hope Totes. Our hope is that the message will add something extra special that might have made all the difference in the world to someone who needed it.
After all of the products were sorted and counted, we loaded our boxes into the school van and delivered them to the Haven of Rest Ministries in person.
We also received a thank you letter from The Haven of Rest:
Thanks so much for the 122 pounds
of toiletries and the 48 pounds of
personal care items you collected and
donated. What a blessing you are to
Haven of Rest!
May each of you, your families, and
your school be blessed abundantly!
Staff and students at Towpath Trail High School feel that completing a community service project was extremely fulfilling. “Too often we think about the things that we’re personally struggling with, and we forget that someone out there has it worse than we do,” said Christina Fraser, director at Towpath Trail High School. “This project opened our eyes to a need within our own community, and it made us feel empowered and positive to be able to do something to help.”