As co-leaders of the Ethical Leadership and Service Group, an Upper School activity group, Julia Hansen and I wanted to start helping our community right from the start of the school year. One of our main goals is to focus on helping the local organization Preble Street Resource Center. Julia, having volunteered weekly at the Teen Center this summer, brought an added element to an already strong connection between Preble and Waynflete. Immediately we formed a standing volunteer date on the first Saturday of each month to help cook and serve breakfast from 7 to 10. This opportunity is open to the whole Waynflete community and has been a huge success thus far. We are looking into committing to more dates each month because of the fun we’ve had as well as the help it brings to Preble Street.
With the cold months rapidly approaching and many members of the Portland community having inadequate clothing, we wanted to help with a drive. Our first step was to figure out what Preble needed. Julia emailed a contact of hers, and we got a quick response. They were in need of sweatshirts, pants, socks, hats, gloves, backpacks, and anything to help keep people warm this winter, and so the warm clothing and backpack drive was born. We were very excited, but we faced one small challenge. What were we going to collect the clothes in and where would those collection spots be? I recalled from my middle school goverment days that for the Thanksgiving food drive we had purchased enough plastic bins for every homeroom in the school. So, I shot a quick email to the Middle School Director Divya, and with a little hunting, Julia and I tracked down the 30+ bins. As quickly as possible, we made signs for all the pins and distributed them to every homeroom in the Upper School and a few select places in the Middle School. The four week long drive had begun!
Because it is fun to have an incentive for people, we created a homeroom challenge. Whatever homeroom could bring in the most articles of clothing would win an Otto’s gift card good for four or five pizzas, kindly donated by Otto’s. The gift card will be awarded at Upper School assembly. As the drive was progressing, I was not seeing a ton of items being brought in. Up to this past Tuesday when we sorted and bagged the clothes, I was fearing the worst, that we would barely have enough to fill one trash bag. To my and I think everyone’s surprise, we had overflowing bins of warm clothing. Some members of the group, along with a few more friends, dumped it all out in the Atrium and sorted into appropriate bags. After it was all said and done, we had filled over 12 large trash bags to the top with all types of clothing. Right after we finished sorting, we loaded up the Waynflete Yukon and could barely shut the trunk. When we arrived at Preble, it was an eye opening experience. As we walked in with the clothing guided by an employee, we passed a man standing by the door. He said to us, “Don’t end up here, don’t do drugs and alcohol. I lost my family.” I was really struck by how much the Preble Street patrons needed warm clothing, as well as this man’s deep sense of regret.
So, on behalf of Julia and myself, as well as the entire group and the Preble Street patrons, I’d just like to say thank you to all members of the Waynflete community who donated and made this drive a huge success. It is so kind of you to make the effort, and your clothes will be so helpful for many in need. This is why I love Waynflete, the way everyone can come together to help, in this instance, the sadly growing homeless population of Portland.