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Short story changes Discovery students’ perspective about homeless

Discovery students packaged gifts for people at the Downtown Rescue Mission. One box read, "Don't let the fear of falling keep you from flying." (CONTRIBUTED)
Discovery students packaged gifts for people at the Downtown Rescue Mission. One box read, “Don’t let the fear of falling keep you from flying.” (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – A short story motivated Discovery Middle School students to collect essentials for homeless individuals.

Language arts classes read Walter Dean Meyers’ “The Treasure of Lemon Brown,” in which 14-year old Greg Ridley meets elderly, homeless Sweet Lemon Brown. They conspire to thwart thugs from stealing Brown’s ‘treasure’ — an old harmonica and newspaper clippings about his career as a blues musician.

The story also prompted a mini-unit to research statistics about the homeless in regions of the United States, language arts teacher Stacey Humes said. Students wanted to help the Downtown Rescue Mission and donated supplies for the men, women and children there.

Mission employee Corey Buckner and former client Stephanie Drummond visited Discovery. Drummond discussed mission services for 18 months that helped her deal with homelessness, drug abuse and eventual recovery.

Students wrapped “Treasures of Love” packages with toiletries, diapers, socks and flip-flops on Dec. 18. Teachers Adrienne King, Emily Parker and Humes delivered donations that night.

The students also participated in “Without Challenge,” giving up something for 24 hours and then writing about the impact. “I reverted to a substitute to help fill the void. Sometimes, homeless people revert to drugs and alcohol to help fill their void,” student Shantanu Kadam.

“In the beginning, many students thought being homeless meant living on the streets, being strung out on drugs and alcohol and (choosing) this lifestyle,” Humes said. After the unit, many students’ opinions changed.

“I now understand homeless people are simply people who have fallen on hard times due to various reasons and need help to get back up,” student Will Wright said. “Things we use every day are things we take for granted,” Sarah Lay said.

“I originally thought the homeless are nasty, filthy and mean,” Karla Hilderbrand said. “I now know you can’t judge a book by its cover.”

Aija Abele realized that “something as simple as bringing in a shoebox of items can make a difference in someone’s life.”

The Downtown Rescue Mission, 1400 Evangel Drive in Huntsville accepts donations year-round.

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