When Julie Smith talks to her students at Langtree Elementary School, she speaks from the heart.
She moved around the West Coast with her mother and stepfather, a migrant farmer, winding up in a one-room house on an apple orchard in the state of Washington, a shelter only open to her while her mother worked there.
Smith refers to it as modern-day slavery.
“There was really no place to call my own,” Smith said yesterday. “I decided at the age of eight that I was not going to live my life like this.”
She turned her childhood into “Hearts for the Homeless,” a yearlong, school-wide project that has packed commercial vans from front to back with supplies for HomeFront, a New Jersey charity aimed at ending homelessness in the state.
“My main goal was just to give back everything that had ever been given to me, like the Christmas baskets that were given to me and the food that was given to my mom, the clothes that were given to us,” Smith said.
The Langtree community donated various kinds of supplies, from toothbrushes and toothpaste to soap and shampoo, to HomeFront’s Family Preservation Center, a shelter that provides emergency housing to families and sets attainable goals to remedy its housing situation.
The project took off without warning. What initially started out as the school’s single donation box — decorated with hearts and helping hands — soon became piles of boxes containing everything from baby wipes to hand sanitizer.
<div class='item-meta'><div class='iaw-button alignleft'><a href='http://www.nj.com/mercer/index.ssf/2012/06/hamilton_teacher_draws_on_own.html' title='Hamilton teacher draws on own childhood experience to educate students on homelessness '>Continue Reading This Article ></a></div><div class='clear'></div>
<small>via <a href='http://www.nj.com/mercer/index.ssf/2012/06/hamilton_teacher_draws_on_own.html' title='NJ.com: Hamilton teacher draws on own childhood experience to educate students on homelessness '>NJ.com</a></small></div>