‘We had so much stuff we had to fill up our van two different times… I like the warm feeling of knowing that you’re doing something good.’
Story and photos by Kate Rouse
RICHMOND — Thanks to fifth-grade teachers Carolyn Butterfield and Lynette Dent, Park Elementary students are learning first-hand the rewards of service — and involving the whole community.
After months of planning and collecting supplies, Dent’s and Butterfield’s students were ready to leave Thursday morning to deliver clothes, hygiene kits, towels, bedding and other supplies to The Road Home, a shelter in Salt Lake City that helps homeless people on the road to becoming self-sustaining again.
“I bet they’ll love it,” fifth-grader Dawson Durrant said of the gift to the shelter. “I think they’ll just be amazed.”
Dent said she and Butterfield did not anticipate the overwhelming support of the community in making the project happen. “We were very pleased and surprised with the response,” Dent said.
Walmart, Lewiston State Bank, Cache Valley Bank, Service-Learning, the Cache Education Foundation and a number of individuals donated financially to the cause, the teachers said, and many people donated their time, talents and belongings as well. Butterfield said that second-grade teacher Ruth Larsen even taught her class to crochet so they could make hats to donate.
“Road Home gave us a list of things they needed the most,” Dent said. Bedding and hygiene supplies topped the list of most-needed items, as well as clothing of all sizes, which Dent said made up the majority of the donations. Some donated blankets and quilts, and, although they did not specifically ask for toys, teddy bears.
Fifth-grader Easton Harris and his family turned the school project into their own family project, buying pillows, blankets and hygiene supplies and recruiting extended family to go through their basements and bring any extra stuff to donate.
To fund the trip to Salt Lake and the promotion of the project, Dent and Butterfield applied for a Learn and Serve America Grant from the Corporation of National Service, which they have done for the past three years to fund a different service project every year.
“Without the service learning grant, we wouldn’t have the money to do any of this,” Butterfield said.
Dent said the first year they applied for the grant, they used the money to make quilts for CAPSA and the next year they planted flowers for Stokes Nature Center. She said none of the projects generated as much interest or community support as this year’s.
Planning and organizing for the project began in October, Dent said, and Park Elementary began collecting supplies in January. Yesterday after school, students loaded bags and boxes full of supplies, which had been stored in a hallway of the school, onto to the trailer to be taken to The Road Home the following day. Dawson’s father, Erik Durrant, volunteered the use of his trailer for the project.
“(The trip to Salt Lake) will kind of sum everything up,” Butterfield said, “they’ll get to see what they’ve been working for.”
Dent’s and Butterfield’s fifth-grade classes planned to leave early this morning to deliver the goods. While in Salt Lake City, Butterfield said they will tour the state Capitol and meet Representative Jack Draxler and Senator Lyle Hillyard, as part of their studies on Utah counties and government.
Art teacher Minnie Dayton and her husband Bryan Dayton helped the students create a plaque featuring each county in Utah, which they will donate to be displayed at the capitol.
As part of this year’s service project, Dent and Butterfield also invited Cache Valley resident Ken Wade, who traveled all over the world doing service as part of his work with the National Guard, to speak tothe students about serving others. Wade spoke about the value of educating and elevating yourself in order to be in a position to help others, Butterfield said, and teaching those you serve to be self-sufficient after you leave.
“(Service) is really a very cool experience,” Dawson said. “It’s hard work but I know it’s going to pay off.”