A teacher’s heart for their students overflows with love. The desire to make educational tools accessible to all of their students has them continually reaching into their own pocketbook. Underpaid, often underappreciated, and a lack of resources would cause others to leave their job. Teachers are creative and steadfast in their endeavor to educate children. ScrapsKC’s education pillar of our mission supports our local teachers with free and inexpensive school supplies.
At the end of every school year, hundreds of thousands of pounds of gently used and unused school supplies throughout Kansas City find their way into the landfill. Classroom teachers dig through school trash cans to recover supplies their students irreverently deemed unnecessary for further use. Over the last four years, ScrapsKC has partnered with area schools to collect these unwanted supplies before they reach the trash can. Community members and homeless have come together to clean and repurpose over 30,000 pounds of school supplies during the last four years.
Over 700 teachers serving tens of thousands of students have received these supplies for free. Teachers have cried. First year teachers who hadn’t received a paycheck were overjoyed with free supplies. Friends bring friends. And some teachers drive two hours for free supplies.
Each year we hear new stories of the impact the repurposed supplies make on children struggling to learn:
children whose parents can’t pay the electric bill let alone buy them a pencil for school;
children whose parents work as Itinerant farm workers picking the fruits and vegetables that grace our tables but barely earning enough for their own basic subsistence; and
children who couch surf every night because their parent is abusive or addicted and can’t care for them.
Who will furnish them school supplies? Teachers will.
“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” Malala Yousafzai
Serving the homeless of Kansas City for over 12 years, Jeff and Brenda have received an education that you can’t find in any book. Learning about life on the streets and how to care for the homeless took years of building trust and relationships with hundreds of homeless they now call friends.
At ScrapsKC we receive a multitude of questions from our customers on the best way to help the homeless. Here are the top 10 things we teach people about serving the homeless.
Always be safe.
Serve from your car window. The car serves as a protective barrier between you and a stranger.
Give items that keep a homeless person safe and healthy. Food, seasonal items (hand warmers/bug wipes) and clothing (underwear/mittens) are most important to daily survival.
Never give money. They receive plenty of money from other people and it is most often used for purchasing drugs and alcohol.
Hand out peanut butter crackers instead of granola bars. Most homeless have no teeth or severe dental issues and cannot eat hard food. Peanut butter also provides good energy not sugared energy.
A roll of toilet paper, good socks and pop-top can of ravioli are good things to offer a homeless person.
Oranges over bananas and apples. Bananas will smoosh in their backpack and rodents will eat through their backpack in search of the food. Apples are too hard to eat with dental issues.
Everything is a commodity in the homeless economic system. Be wise in what you give.
Never enter a homeless camp.
Wave and smile. It always brightens someone’s day.
We are curious. Always fascinated with the possibility of the world. We believe that learning takes place wherever you are. We teach and learn everyday. Education is deeply ingrained in ScrapsKC’s work. It has to be when your mission is “Creative Reuse.”
Over the last few weeks we’ve told you about ScrapsKC’s programs to protect Kansas City’s environment through material reuse and to help the homeless through personal renewal. In our final installment we’d like to show you how the third program – education – underlies all our efforts.
KC’s Manufacturing Core As Learning Resource
Kansas City is a wonderfully creative city with a small town feel. But, hidden away in parts of Kansas City is a large manufacturing industry. Chinet plates, squeegees, beer, cars, rubber gaskets and a multitude of everyday items are just some of the things manufactured in Kansas City. At ScrapsKC, we see the manufacturing industry as an opportunity to learn!
Manufacturing creates waste and ScrapsKC wants to keep that waste out of the landfill. ScrapsKC works tirelessly to find manufacturers creating byproducts that can be creatively reused. But, part of our quest is to learn more about the manufacturing processes so we can educate our customers about Kansas City industries, the environmental impact and the opportunities created by manufacturing.
The rubber pieces (above) are by-products from the squeegee industry. These colorful shapes are punched out of rubber strips before they are attached to the metal squeegee handle. Because rubber takes decades to break down in our landfills we give these little pellets another life. Teachers love them for classroom sensory boxes, they make a great mosaic and the shapes are perfect for a math lesson.
There’s more than just the by-products to learn about from manufacturing scraps. Think about the job skills required to make these items. Art, design, engineering, math, and machine operation are some hard skills needed to manufacture items. But, what about the soft skills, like problem solving, risk taking, awareness of the world around you, and working with others? These are the rich educational conversations we have with our customers at ScrapsKC by encouraging creative reuse.
There are some unusual stories about unique products that have been manufactured (ask Brenda about the Weasand clip donation). Our mission to educate our community, about our community is paramount. Expand your knowledge. Become fascinated with the possibilities of the world. Come visit ScrapsKC.
Homelessness is real. Poverty is real. Hunger is real.
Statistics show that on any given day there is between 6,000-10,000 homeless people in Missouri. This includes individuals, minors, and families. Thousands suffer from chronic homelessness and they are the ones we see living under bridges.
Thankfully, I have been blessed and have never experienced homelessness to that extreme. But I have experienced poverty and hunger.
During my sophomore year of high school, I volunteered with the Interact Club and stood next to a barrel at a local grocery store and asked people to donate dry goods for local families in need. The next year, my junior year, my mom suffered from chronic depression, quit her job, and holed herself up in her bedroom. We were hungry and without power for several weeks. The same organization I volunteered for, donated food from their food pantry to us. I will never forget the excitement to see such variety of foods followed by deflation as I realized we didn’t have electricity to heat any of the food up or cook it. But that didn’t stop me from popping the top off of the ravioli and scarfing it down cold. It was the most delicious can of ravioli I’d ever had.
Just recently I shared this story with my bestie as I reminisced about those days finding connections to my poor eating habits now: binge eating and what not. I don’t know why this story weighs my heart down and makes me sad, because it shouldn’t. The organization I worked hard to bless, blessed us in return.
Jesus replied, “You don’t understand what I’m doing now, but someday you will.” ~John 13:7
Yesterday, Linda’s girl scout troop volunteered at Scraps KC to feed the homeless. We cooked and prepared hot ham and cheese english muffin sandwiches. Then, we wrapped them in foil so they would be hot and do more than just fill their tummies. Something about a hot breakfast when you’re so down and out has to help your overall mental health too.
Not only did we make them breakfast, we packed essentials into a pick-up truck. Pants, sweaters, t-shirts, underwear, socks, hand warmers, gloves, hats, scarves, toilet trees, first aid items, and so much more.
Before we headed out, the sweet lady at Scraps KC Brenda, who started this four years ago, sat us down and talked about ways we could continue to help the homeless long after our experience with her. She showed us a variety of items we could keep in our cars to hand out when we come to a crossroad and see a homeless person standing at the corner. She mentioned that peanut butter crackers are a great item instead of granola bars because most of them have no teeth or sore teeth and have a hard time eating them. This was something I had never thought of.
Then she held up a can of ravioli. “This is one of their favorite things to get. They will tip it back and even drink the juice.”
It was everything I could do to hold back the tears. The memory of scarfing down a can of ravioli, cold, flooded every inch of my emotions.
“Just tape a fork to the side and keep it in your car for those moments you encounter a homeless person.”
Linda looked at me and I winked. I knew what she was thinking. She was already planning our afternoon.
With heavy hearts and nervous stomachs we drove over to our destination. Brenda had gone to the same location every Saturday morning for four years. A line of homeless individuals were patiently waiting for our arrival. She opened up the bed of the pick up truck, took a seat, and started talking to them on a first name basis. She knew nearly every single one of them.
The girls quickly jumped in and started handing out sandwiches, hand warmers, and socks. Once we got comfortable, we started helping them find items they needed from the pick-up truck. They all used their manners and said please and thank you as we assisted them. As I walked around with hats and scarves a gentleman paused to look at the selection. Unfortunately, all I had were pink and purple items. I joked about not having any neutral tones this winter and with that, he chuckled. I went back to the truck and found a blue hat. He was pretty tickled about that. He commented, “It isn’t neutral but I’ll take it.” And then he smiled his best smile.
This got me all loosened up and I started talking to them like I’d known them my whole life. I met a gentleman who fought for our freedom and after a flash bomb burned his retinas, he was nearly blind and couldn’t hold a job. He was probably my age or young 40’s. I thanked him for his dedication to fighting for our country and found him the items he needed. I desperately looked for some sun glasses since the sun was making it even harder for him to see. I told Brenda that he could use some and she assured me she would bring him some next weekend.
She cares for each one of them as if they are family. She said they look out for her as well. They let her know who she should watch out for and have even made a circle around her when a fight broke out to protect her. My heart still swells at the thought. Though she assured us that fights are rare and has only happened one time.
As we were leaving, a young couple approached the truck. They were new to the area and were recently homeless. They had nothing. I stocked them up with whatever items were left and even gave up my super duper soft scarf because we were out. She had tears in her eyes and was extremely grateful. I hugged both of them and asked their names so I could pray for them. I’ve probably said their names over and over a million times in the past 24 hours thinking about where they are right now.
These people are real.
Brenda mentioned that a lot of these individuals are homeless because of a traumatic event that occurred when they were younger and they don’t honestly have the skills necessary to hold a job and take care of themselves. The stigma that they are lazy and don’t want to work is ridiculous.
Afterwards, Linda, her friend, and I went straight to the grocery store and purchased 12 cans of ravioli. The girls taped forks to the sides and wrote letters of encouragement for the cans as well.
I had no idea how valuable a cold can of ravioli could be, but boy has it taught me a lot. Everything comes full circle, even decades later.
Count your blessings my friends.
ABOUT SCRAPS KC
As a non-profit creative reuse center and retail store, Scraps KC inspires creativity in art and education, positively impacts the environment, and provides hope for the homeless.