Twenty-five second-graders from Wheeling Country Day School took a Martin Luther King Jr. Day field trip in frigid weather Monday to fill plastic bags with hand warmers and heartwarming messages for the homeless men and women who stay at the Winter Freeze Shelter at Youth Services System Inc.
At Wheeling Country Day, rather than taking a day off to honor the Civil Rights leader, the children had a “day on” to engage in community service projects, said Joe Jividen, WCDS communications director.
“The children were eager and full of excitement” as they climbed the steps to the fourth floor of the Hazel-Atlas building in East Wheeling, which houses the YSS administrative offices and the Winter Freeze Shelter, said Lychel Shrodes, an AmeriCorps VISTA worker at YSS who organized the project. They made cards on bright-colored paper with sayings such as “You are worth it” and “I love you.” They then placed a card in each zip-top bag along with hand warmers, gloves, snacks and toiletries.
“They were full of questions asking why people are homeless, do kids come, what do they do during the day and so on,” Shrodes said.
The Winter Freeze Shelter is open from 9:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. Dec. 15, to March 15. Beds are set up in large rooms on the fourth floor. Guests receive a hot meal, coffee, conversation, necessities and medical checkups from Project HOPE. Donations of money and goods from the community help keep the shelter running. This is the 10th year the shelter has been open.
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John Moses, Youth Services System CEO, said Monday morning “was an experience in contrasts.”
“I said good morning and goodbye till tonight to people facing a cold world. I then witnessed a throng of children, none too tall enough to ride the roller coaster at Kennywood, gift veritable strangers with their blessings,” he said.
“No fireplace roaring with flames can warm that place in a lonely man’s soul like a caring child’s smile. And this morning the room was filled with them. Thank you, WCDS, and the compassionate adults shaping their lives,” Moses said.
In addition to the second-graders’ visit to YSS, Country Day students volunteered at the Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling, delivered donations they collected to the Marshall County Animal Shelter and cleaned Oglebay Institute Towngate Theatre. Younger classes made valentines to present to residents at Elmhurst, the House of Friendship.
“We are grateful for partners like YSS who provide authentic and age-appropriate opportunities to empower children,” Jividen said.