For several Estrella Mountain Community College Future Teachers Club members, a Nov. 16 service-learning activity was an eye-opening experience. The club put together 50 hygiene kits and delivered them to Andre House in Phoenix. The kits contained toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, dental floss, deodorant, combs, and sunscreen.
“You don’t really think of how another life lives other than yourself,” Future Teachers Club Secretary Nichole Grabowski said. “So arriving at the Andre House was really eye-opening. You could see how many people did not have homes and it was really upsetting. I wish we could have given more.”
Nichole, who’s in her first semester at EMCC, proposed the donation drive after finding out just how much homeless shelter guests are charged for hygiene items.
“I don’t want to take all the credit, but I came up with the hygiene kit idea because I heard homeless people have to pay $2 at the shelter for toothbrushes and other hygiene items,” Nichole said. “So our idea was that we would provide those things for free to the homeless instead of making them pay money they clearly don’t have.”
Andre House helps the less fortunate by providing meals, clothing, a safe space to shower, and connections to resources to help get them back on their feet. Future Teachers Club Adviser Lewis Brownlee suggested Andre House as the beneficiary of the hygiene kit drive because he’s been serving there for 14 years.
“I think the thing that I find appealing about the place is you don’t have to do a lot of red tape to serve,” Brownlee said. “You just show up.”
After donating the hygiene items, Future Teachers Club members stuck around and served food to the homeless.
“These people who are going through such struggles were so grateful and humble,” Future Teachers Club Treasurer Llanely Ceniceros said. “They’d say, ‘God bless you,’ and ‘thank you,’ and it made me feel really good to be able to help them.”
Club members are currently holding a drive for new and gently used socks, gloves, and beanies to give to Andre House, and then they’re planning some local service-learning events, such as reading to youngsters at local libraries, visiting residents of a rehab center, and volunteering at Special Olympics.
“Each student is bringing something that they’re passionate about to the table,” Brownlee said. “We’re trying to make sure everyone is included because we don’t want to be labeled as a one-trick pony. Andre House is a downtown establishment, but we’re looking for things in the West Valley. This is where they live and we want to contribute to this community, so we’ve diversified our outreach goals and missions.”
Brownlee’s only been a club adviser since August, but it didn’t take him long to notice that volunteerism runs in club members’ blood.
“They all have a passion for something and I noticed that from the beginning,” he said. “I think it was like kindred spirits for us all to come together. I’m just excited to be part of their growth.”
He’s also excited about them being part of his growth.
“They’ve helped me diversify my philanthropy,” he said. “I’ve never even considered reading at a library and I’m really looking forward to that. I’m looking forward to working with Special Olympics and working at the rehab center.
“They’ve given me hope.”
To help the Future Teachers Club with its current donation drive, take new or gently used socks, gloves, and beanies to Brownlee’s cubicle in Komatke B or to Ocotillo 111 by Dec. 13.