PACE students again pack up Holiday happiness for the homeless

See what goes into making hundreds of Christmas gifts for down-and-out folks whom these Parkrose High School students may never meet …

Students in the Parkrose Alternative Center for Education program begin to package hygiene kits for the homeless, as their annual service program nears its culmination.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

It’s a longstanding tradition for the students of the Parkrose Alternative Center for Education (PACE) to create gifts for Portland’s homeless, and then deliver them to shelters.

That tradition continued into its 32nd year, as PACE students worked diligently, on December 17, packaging toiletries and making decorations in one of the classrooms at Parkrose High School.

PACE seniors Tyler Wardman and Katelyn Davis lead the “Homeless Project” this year.

“We work with our class to raise money, collect donations, and arrange the transportation for the field trip to the homeless shelters,” explained co-organizer Tyler Wardman

“Our teacher asked us if we wanted to be the two main people were going to help with it,” co-organizer Katelyn Davis added. “I’ve worked with this for several years, and I’ve always been really interested in it.”

Most of the donations for the hygiene kids are from students and their families, Davis remarked – made after PACE students present the program in the high school’s classrooms.

Creating a “gift bag assembly line” gathered around tables, PACE students stuff toiletries into “give bags” that will be given to the homeless.

“And with the money we raise, we go to the Dollar Tree store to purchase ‘travel sizes’ of items, to make sure we have enough of each item – like soap, shaving cream, deodorant, and toothpaste – items for each bag,” Wardman told East Portland News.

The organizers said they rounded up enough items to make about 500 gift bags.

PACE students Mason Plalanes and Renee McCullough add toiletries to gift bags.

Later that day, the class members were bused from their outer East Portland school downtown to homeless shelters where they joined with other volunteers to clean and spruce up the temporary living areas.

Christmas morning, when the clients return from their breakfast, each will find his or her own hygiene kit placed on their bed by the shelter’s workers.

Ariana Koehl and Elias Starks make “Holiday chains” they’ll take to decorate the homeless shelters which the class will visit.

“I think all the kids of PACE enjoy doing this,” Davis commented. “I really like seeing everyone working together and doing it together and do something good for the community.”

Wardman added, “I like being able to do something good for my community. And it’s a welcome break from school, this time of year.”

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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