Nothing says "home" like cookies and Christmas ornaments, and Lehighton Area School District students who participate in the SHINE afterschool program have parlayed those comforts into a boost for a local program to help the homeless.
The students sold homemade cookies and ornaments at a December middle school basketball game to raise $100 for the Family Promise program in Carbon County.
Family Promise was formed in the late 1980s, after New Jersey marketing executive Karen Olsen realized homeless families' need for shelter, food, social connection and dignity. Family Promise now operates in at least 39 states. The program is centered around an Interfaith Hospitality Network congregations that take turns providing a week's shelter and support to families. The families sleep and eat family-style meals with program volunteers at the church building. During the day, they go to a day center where they can shower, get children off to school and begin their day's work, meeting with human services agencies, looking for jobs and attending counseling sessions. Each congregation will host families about four or five weeks a year.
Local Family Promise director Larissa Kimmel was thrilled with the donation.
"I'm extremely grateful for the dedication of these kids and this program to family promise. We really hope that this money will help with our startup costs. The sooner we get those together, the sooner we will be able to help families in need," she said.
SHINE teacher Kali Andrew knew the program would be worthy of the students' donation.
"Family Promise was a good choice for us because it's going to be located in Lehighton. A lot of our families are affected by things like this in Carbon County, so I thought it would be a great cause," she said.
Andrew said the donation was the fruit of a course in logistics. The SHINE students were learning by creating an African drum business. They learned how to write a mission statement, create a business plan, and to cost out various shipping, delivery times and routes.
"The SHINE program had drums made in Africa. We began our lessons by talking about the drums, and how they got to us from Africa. We talked about how many miles they traveled, how much it was to ship them here and how they got here," she said.
The lesson took the students to the UPS facility in Hometown, where they learned about the logistics of shipping.
That led to a hands-on business of cookies and ornaments. The students built on what they had learned about shipping, delivery, routes and costs "and how much profit we would make if we sold them," Andrew said. "Then we actually did sell them."
The students sold four different types of ornaments.
"Reindeer, Santa Claus, trees and wreaths," said student Desiree Brown.
The logistics course was part of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) High-Priority Occupation Curriculum that we do for the fourth and fifth-graders in the SHINE program, said SHINE director Jeanne Miller.
"I'm sure they are really excited because they have been in SHINE for awhile. What they did was a curriculum for first through third grade and we thought, let's raise the bar for the fourth and fifth graders and let's do some new things, like logistics and they made hovercrafts. They're learning about health careers, different kinds of jobs in advanced manufacturing, robotics ...," she said.
Miller said the 32-week curriculum's hands-on activities will be expanded at SHINE's summer camps at the Tamaqua campus of Lehigh Carbon Community College. SHINE students from the program's six centers will be involved, she said.
The donation dovetails with SHINE's service-learning component, Miller said. The curriculum helps students master academic skills while also learning to contribute to their communities.
Participating in the project were: Lehighton Area Middle School students Desiree Brown, 12; Matthew Dawson, 11; Ryan Weiss, 12; Trevon Hauser, 11; and Alex Lambert, 10. Mahoning Elementary School student Cameron Berger, 11; East Penn Elementary students Cody Hunsicker, 11 and Haley Weiss, 10; Franklin Elementary School students Ashley Frey, 10; Alexis LaRochelle, 10; and Lindsey Kates, 10; and Shull David Elementary School student Jennifer Rehrig, 10.