Thursday, May 3, 2012

Homelessness is in Your Own Backyard

Twelve-year-old Emily Kassing from Dallas, Texas is the kind of person you don't hear about everyday.  After reading Also Known as Harper, she got to thinking about the issue of homelessness.  She wrote to tell me that she had discovered that there were 5,600 homeless men, women, and children in her own community!  This affected her so deeply, that she felt that she needed to do something, and that "everybody needs to help make homelessness go away."  

So Emily did just that.  She conducted a coat drive for homeless people in her city.  Emily impressed me so much, that I felt like others needed to hear about her!  She and her parents kindly agreed to an interview on The Backstory.  

Please tell us a little about your project.

EMILY:  I sent out letters to everyone in my neighborhood ( I just stuck letters and a garbage bag in 300 mailboxes) to let them know I was trying to help give encouragement to the homeless in my community.   I mentioned that I read your book and was inspired to try to help...because of reading "Harper."  I invited them to collect coats and put them on their front porch a few days later and I would collect the bags .

 A week later I went and collected all the white trash bags I saw.  My goal was to collect 100 coats. I collected 97! 

I donated them to the Homeless Shelter in Dallas, called the Stewpot. I really think all the children who are homeless, along with their parents, would love the coats: especially this winter. 

 My family and I had a complete tour of the Stewpot and learned all about the homeless services they offer and just how big and sad the situation is.

How did you come up with the idea?

EMILY:  After I read your book, I realized that homelessness is real. It is really happening everywhere...and to children...that could be just like Harper.  It really broke my heart.  So I really wanted to help them.  This is one thing I wish I could change about the world.

What did you enjoy most about your project?

EMILY:  My favorite part about my project was... collecting all the coats!  My family and I really had no idea if we would get any coats; it was really a gamble.  

The Saturday morning came to start driving around, and my sisters and brothers came with me.  When we saw the first white garbage bag, we all screamed.  It was a joy to drive up and see all the bags on the front porch of houses. It was so awesome and humbling to see that so many wanted to help the homeless.  I also received some letters with the coats encouraging me.. It was so rewarding.
If others wanted to do a similar project, what advice/tips might you have for them?
   * I think an adult should help you.
   * I think you should read "Also Known as Harper" so you can get a glimpse of what homelessness is really like. You can feel for the people who are in that situation.
    * Before you send the letters, make sure you know where you will be sending the coats.  I think it helped that people knew about my desire to donate.
    * If you have siblings~ ask them to help if they can.  Many hands made light work.

I want to thank Emily and her parents so much for their time and for agreeing to this interview.  Emily has a forever place in my heart, and is a living example that nobody is too young to make a difference in the community.


Marcia said...

What a neat, neat story! You must be feeling wonderful about this. Kudos to Emily.

Judy said...

Love this...making a differance one "community" at a time! Kudos Emily AND Anne!