Teaching kids to give back

ALPENA – Students in Christin Sobeck’s Food, Sew, Fun class at Thunder Bay Junior High have been working hard making unique pillows for a special cause. Each of the seventh and eighth grade students in Sobeck’s fifth hour class used different types and patterns of material to make individual pillows for the Sunrise Mission in Alpena.

Leslie Scheen, assistant director of the mission, spoke to the class about the number of homeless people the mission helps every year, and why it is important to the community.

“We accomodate about 300 people a year,” Scheen said. “Homelessness happens for a lot of reasons. It can happen because somebody lost their job, or because you’ve been injured and can’t work, because you struggle with substance abuse and lose your home, or struggle with mental illness and something happens where your home is taken away. Many people live 90 days away from homelessness. There are a lot of different ways people can give back to the community where they live.”

Students learned about different ways to volunteer at the mission and around the community to help improve Alpena, and to have a sense of what it feels like to help and give back to their home town.

“We’ve been talking about volunteering and appreciating the community where we live,” Sobeck said. “It’s important for students at this age to know what it feels like to make a positive impact on all people from young to old. It’s a win-win situation when opportunities like this allow them to experience the feeling of giving without expecting something in return. You can see the impact on them and know it is lasting.”

The pillow project took students about a week to complete, and each pillow has its own feel, personalized by the student who made it.

“It’s a lesson in giving back,” Sobeck said. “This is a unique high-energy class with great kids. We came up with the idea and found a place where we could make an impact. We thought the Sunrise house was our best bet.”

Sobeck believes it is important for the students to learn how they can have a positive effect on their community, and said this project shows them how good it can feel to help someone else.

“For kids this age … if we can give opportunities like this in school to give back, it helps increase their self-confidence,” Sobeck said. “It gives them a positive and awesome feeling, and they really enjoyed making the pillows for the mission.”

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at ngrulke@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.